Whereabouts Ugandan Footballer in Earthquake-Hit Turkish City Still Unknown

Uncertainty still shrouds the whereabouts of Ugandan female footballer Sandra Nantumbwe, who plays for Turkish side Natayspor Futbol Kulübü Antakya in Hatay province, one of the most devastated by the earthquakes on Monday. 

By Tuesday afternoon, there was no news about Nantumbwe at the Foreign Affairs ministry in Kampala, which said it was in contact with the Ugandan embassy in Ankara. There was no statement from Nantumbwe’s club either.

In the same city, Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu who plays for the male side of the same club was earlier reported trapped in debris before being rescued alive, according to the Ghana Football Association. 

Nantumbwe previously played for several US teams including Westcliff University, Asubo Gafford Ladies, Redlands Community College, and Jaguars FC, while she was also part of the 2016 national team in the CECAFA Women Championships. 

The ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that so far, no Ugandan is reported dead, trapped, or injured in any part of eastern Europe and the Middle East, following the Monday earthquakes. One of the prominent Ugandans in Turkey is national football team striker Farouk Miya who plays for second-tier league Çaykur Rizespor Kulübü.   

Soon after the first quake on Monday, Miya posted through his verified Twitter handle, pictures of destroyed buildings in the country. The other known Ugandan footballer in Turkey, Owen Ibrahim Kasule plays for second-division side Ankara Keciörengücü in the capital of Ankara. 

The 7.8 magnitude tremor at daybreak and another one later in the day devastated Turkey but also shook Armenia, Cyprus, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria leaving over 5,000 people dead, with about 1,500 in Syria alone. World leaders, including President Yoweri Museveni have been sending their messages of condolence and hope to mainly Turkey and Syria.     

“I am deeply saddened by the deaths, injuries, and loss of property in Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. My thoughts and prayers, and those of all Ugandans, are with the families who have lost their loved ones. May their souls rest in eternal peace,” reads Museveni’s message posted on his Twitter account. 

The Foreign Affairs ministry could not confirm with certainty that all Ugandans were safe, but said the Ugandan mission in Ankara had not received any distress calls, despite calling on anyone in need or with information to contact the embassy.

It is estimated that 2600 people are dead, 20,000 are injured, and an estimated 6,000 buildings are destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise. The most affected cities were Hataya, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir, and Kilis in the Eastern parts of the country. 

The spokesperson at the Foreign Affairs ministry Martha Okumu Ringa said that most Ugandans in Turkey stay in the economic capital, Istanbul, in the northwestern part of the country, but added that the number is not known.

“Ugandans do not like registering their presence in foreign countries despite constant advice by the ministry and the embassies,” she said. 

According to her, this makes it even more difficult to account for them when there is a problem because they cannot be tracked. 

“It even becomes hard for the government or the mission to plan for them because they do not know how many they are or where they are located.” 

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