Covering a devastating bomb blast

Selin Girit BBC Turkish reporter, Selin Gerit, reporting live from the scene of the devastation

"Did I wake you up?" said my colleague Mark Lowen on the other end of the line. It was Saturday morning, just past 10am. I was on my annual leave.

"No," I replied chatting away. "I was just about to get up and make some tea." He quickly got to the point: "Did you hear about the bombings in Ankara?" I hadn't.

Early reports were suggesting one person was killed and several were wounded. But there were others claiming the bombings were much worse.

I sent a quick message to Mark: "A pro-Kurdish TV channel says 20 people might have been killed." He replied: "I'm going in to the office."

I dropped a line to my editor Murat Nisancioglu back in London. Would our stringer in Ankara need help? Should I pack and go immediately?

Initially no-one expected the story to unfold the way it did. There was a hesitation to deploy me in Ankara. Murat took the initiative: "Go anyway, it will be good to have you there if this gets bigger," he said.

And it did.

Body parts lying around

When I landed in Ankara after taking the first flight I could, the bombings had already become the deadliest attack on Turkish soil.

Murat Nisancioglu BBC Turkish Editor, Murat Nisancioglu, interviewed on BBC News about the bomb which killed more than 100 people.

I arrived at the scene, not quite sure about what to expect. More than seven hours had passed since the bombings. The wounded and the dead were carried away. Police had cordoned off the area, but there were still body parts lying around.

I tried to make sure I didn't step on anything I shouldn't. I took several photos, of placards reading "peace" lying on the ground, newspapers on shattered glass, a finger and presumably an ear just beside a funny purple hat.

My cameraman tried to film as much as we could before we lost light and then I started doing a round of lives for all outlets: BBC News, BBC World News, BBC World Service, BBC News at Ten, Radio 5Live.

There was a huge stain of blood just five metres from where our live position was. "Someone was injured there," I thought. "Maybe got killed…" When municipality trucks started cleaning the scene by flushing water on the road, a river of blood came running under our feet. It smelled of iron.

That night, colleagues told me how they escaped the attacks by minutes.

An eyewitness described how his two friends got killed in front of his eyes and how he had to carry the dead to the ambulances.

'My heart is bleeding'

The next morning, a clearly shaken young man told me he felt obliged to come back: "I don't want to forget what has happened here for the rest of my life," he said.

At the hospitals families were in agony, some waiting to receive the bodies of their loved ones, some still praying for the survival of the heavily injured.

A mother was crying. "My heart is bleeding," she kept saying. Her daughter was in intensive care, struggling to stay alive. At the funerals, anger sometimes took over grief. There were many mourners blaming the government for not doing enough to prevent the attacks.

Our live coverage from the scene of the Ankara bombings went on for four days. Jeremy Bowen, Mark Lowen and I tried to shed light on who could be behind the attacks, how the bombings could impact the upcoming parliamentary elections, what possibly could be next for Turkey.

"Such man-made attacks not only kill or injure people, but also cause severe harm on the psychology of individuals and society," said a psychologist that I interviewed. In those immediate days after the bombings, everyone I spoke to clearly showed signs of trauma.


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