ANKARA, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Ghana winger Christian Atsu has been found dead under the building where he lived in southern Turkey after last week’s massive earthquake, his Turkish agent said on Saturday.
Atsu had been missing since the Feb. 6 earthquake following the collapse of an apartment building in Hatay. He was 31.
“Atsu’s lifeless body was found under the rubble,” Murat Uzunmehmet told reporters in Hatay. “Currently, more items are still being taken out. His phone was also found.”
Atsu had been scheduled to fly out of southern Turkey hours before the quake, but Hatayspor’s manager said on Friday the Ghanaian opted to stay with the club after scoring the winning goal in a Feb. 5 Super Lig match.
The Ghanaian foreign ministry said Atsu’s elder brother and twin sister were at the site when his body was recovered. The embassy is arranging for the body to be transported to Ghana for burial.
The “government extends to the widow and family of Christian Atsu our deepest condolences,” the ministry said in a statement.
Atsu joined Hatayspor in September last year after spells with English Premier League clubs Everton, Chelsea and Newcastle United.
“We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person. There are no words to describe our sadness,” Hatayspor said on Twitter.
Newcastle also paid tribute, saying: “A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters.”
Atsu won 65 caps for Ghana and helped them reach the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final, where they lost to Ivory Coast on penalties. He was last selected to play for Ghana in 2019.
He joined Chelsea from Porto in 2013 and had several loan spells at clubs including Vitesse and Bournemouth.
“Chelsea sends our heartfelt condolences to Christian’s family and friends and to all those affected by the earthquake tragedy,” the London club said.
More than 45,000 people have been killed in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, and the toll is expected to rise further with some 264,000 apartments in Turkey destroyed and many still missing in the country’s worst modern disaster.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Manasi Pathak Additional reporting by Christian Akorlie in Accra; Editing by William Mallard/Alex Richardson/Ken Ferris