‘It’s your worst nightmare’ – SA survivor on Turkey airport attack

2016-07-01 11:10
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PICS: Terror attack rocks Turkey airport

View pics from Istanbul's Ataturk airport following a terror attack that left dozens dead.

Cape Town - A South African survivor of a terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport has arrived safely at home, and has relayed her ordeal to News24, describing it as “your worst nightmare”.

Judy Favish, the director at UCT’s institutional planning department, arrived back at her home in Cape Town on Thursday, having spent most of Wednesday in a hotel, anxious to leave following the attack.

A total of 44 people were killed in the gun and bomb attack at Turkey's busiest airport on Tuesday night. Officials said the three suicide bombers were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and were suspected to be linked to the Islamic State group.

- Read more: Ataturk bombers - jackets a missed give-away

Speaking to News24 from her home, Favish said she was shaken after the experiences of the last two days.

“I’m very relieved to be home, this past experience has been really shattering," she said on Thursday evening.

“I slept for an hour and had a shower, and although I don’t have my luggage it’s very nice to be in my own space.

“I had a very moving flight. I spent quite a bit of time talking to the flight attendants [of Turkish Airlines]. I really want to say I feel so, so moved by the stories that they told me and by their behaviour on the flight. They were just superb.

“To look at them you wouldn’t have thought that any of these attendants had lost some of their colleagues or weren’t scared themselves and what it means for their futures.

'Worst nightmare'

Favish, 64, had been at a business conference in Ireland a few days before, and spent a couple of days of leave during her layover exploring Istanbul.

She said she arrived a little early for her flight on Tuesday night, around 21:50, and was in the process of checking in at the Turkish Airlines counter.

She had already been issued her boarding pass and had been handed back her passport, and just as the attendant put her suitcase on the conveyor belt, the shooting broke out.

“At the time we didn’t know how close it was. I was at the departure terminal and the noise made you feel like it was on the same level,” she said.

“It was actually one level below us, but in the same area directly below us, and literally four minutes after I had walked through the door.

“You know you hear these gunshots and it’s your worst nightmare. So immediately you think you must run for shelter and I ran and hid under the counter just next to where I was standing. Many other people ran in different directions.

“The shooting continued, and then there were two very loud explosions, that must have been released by the suicide bombers, and then there was more shooting, and then the noise stopped.

'Oh no, it's coming closer'

Favish said she hid under the counter for a few moments that “seemed like forever”.

“I sort of put my head out and one of the attendants gestured to me to stay under.

“I was watching smoke coming up very near to where I was.

“That frightened me even more than the shooting, because I thought ‘oh no, it’s coming closer’.

“But then the attendant gestured to me that I must come out.”

Favish and other people in the airport were then told to run to another point in the departure hall and were taken behind closed doors. After that, they were taken down to the staff cafeteria, where they spent approximately two hours.

All in all, there were about 80 people with Favish in the basement cafeteria.

Anxious, injured

“I was so anxious, there were two people in our group who were injured. One man had blood all over him."

Favish noticed three people who had been injured, and another two were having "extreme panic attacks".

“They were convulsing,” she said.

“There was one woman who was injured and we were trying to minister to them.

“After about an hour and a half, medical personnel came in and took the injured people out.

“They were all speaking Turkish [the medical personnel], but you could see they were trying to their best under very difficult circumstances.”

After around two hours, police escorted the group out of the airport, past the arrival terminal and into the road, where buses were arranged to transport them away from the airport.

She managed to find a hotel that graciously charged her at half rate, before phoning her South African-based travel agent, who arranged for her to leave in the early hours of Thursday morning.

'People suffered, and for what?'

Now that she is back home, and with time to reflect, Favish said she was deeply saddened by the events, and wondered what these types of terror attacks would achieve.

“I just feel deeply sad that so many ordinary people suffered, and for what?” she said.

“It’s so sad that people feel they need to resort to these kinds of acts. You just wish people would just talk, and try to understand one another.”

Read more on:    turkey  |  security

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