Hope and fear as UK families wait for news

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The Independent Online
ILYAS YILDIRIM has not worked for five days or slept for five nights. Instead he has been dialling broken phone lines or staring at the bright, distorted images of the rescue operation on Turkey's TRT channel.

Mr Yildirim waits for news at the sparse Turkish Community Centre in Newington Green, north London, home to many of London's 250,000 Turkish residents. A 33-year-old building contractor, he has heard nothing of his parents, or his three sons, nor of his brother's family. All he knows, from a phone call to his former neighbours, is that the family's house in Bursa, south of Istanbul, has been shaken to bits.

He says he is hopeful. But Mr Yildirim, who came to London two years ago, is trapped, even if his children do survive. He is waiting for residence papers from the Home Office and dare not go to Turkey to find his family. If he did, he says, Britain wouldn't let him back in. "I didn't sleep since I heard the news. I must go back. But I can't."

Mr Yildirim, unshaven and on the verge of tears, speaks through his friend, 65-year-old Akil Bilgili, owner of the community centre. "We're not getting very far with the Home Office," said Mr Bilgili. "He needs just seven days' permission - now. In 15 days it might not be needed."

Like the majority of Britain's Turks, Mr Bilgili is from Cyprus rather than the mainland. But most know someone affected by the quake, he says. The bodies of two friends, his wife's relatives, have just been retrieved in Yalova, near Istanbul.

The community centre is better used to offering advice on pensions. Now the main source of news, it is open 24 hours a day. "There is a lot of discussion on the television of who is to blame, but here people are mostly in shock," said Mr Bilgili.

Two doors down in the Saray Social Club the Yatman family has been fortunate: their aunt has survived with only a broken leg. They have many friends and relatives there, but have heard little. "All we know is through the papers and the television," said Salattin Yatman. "You probably know more than we do."

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