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Northern Ireland tourists tell of chaos and confusion on streets of Turkey during failed coup by military

By Rachel Martin

Published 18/07/2016

Women react during the funeral of a victim
Women react during the funeral of a victim
A woman grieves for a loved one in Friday's failed attempted coup
Turkish anti-riot police officers stand next to an armed vehicle at Taksim Square in Istanbul
Terrified: Rebecca McSorley
Burnt out vehicles in Ankara
Mourners pray in front the coffins of policemen killed during the attempted coup
A man stands in front of a tank at the entrance to Istanbul's Ataturk airport

A sense of normality has started to return to the streets of Turkey, according to Northern Ireland holidaymakers caught up in the drama of the failed military coup.

At least 290 people were killed and more than 1,400 injured in the unrest which swept through the country over the weekend.

Flights from Dublin were cancelled on Saturday and the US Federal Aviation Administration has upheld an order that no Turkish flights land in the country.

But Northern Ireland tourists appeared to be determined to make the most of their holiday in Turkey's resorts.

And Irish tourists have already started flowing back into the country again.

Yesterday, Turkish Airways took two flights from Dublin to Istanbul - one of the cities at the centre of Friday's failed coup - with several more flights scheduled for the rest of the week.

And Aer Lingus also began to reinstate its route between Dublin and Izmir on Saturday.

Tanks rolled through the streets of Istanbul and Ankara on Friday night as the country's army attempted to seize control.

And the disturbances crept to other parts of the country including Marmaris, where the Palmer and Kaya families from Millisle and Newtownards will be staying for another week.

Despite the city being around six hours south-west of Ankara - the country's capital where the coup's main efforts were focused - international media has reported tourists hearing gunfire on the street in Marmaris, a coastal town popular with British tourists.

Paul Higgins, a journalist from Northern Ireland, is staying in the city.

He described how an extra prayer call in the middle of the night alerted him to the fact that something was amiss.

"Everyone was glued to their laptops, tablets and phones trying to find out what was going on," he said.

"People were called to the street by the president, but the coup wasn't brought down by the gendarmerie or the president but by the people here - the civilians.

"There have been pictures of Turkish citizens surrounding the army."

But despite the weekend's disturbances, the mood among the region's holidaymakers is generally upbeat.

Speaking from Greenpark apartments in the Armutalan district of Marmaris, Millisle man Andrew Palmer said: "No one's going to drag me home early."

The father-of-three has been in the city for a week and has another week left of the holiday - and said he is happy for his family to stay in Turkey.

"Today things have been back to normal - there are around 12 British families playing in the pool and we were out sightseeing yesterday.

"My wife and I explained what was happening to our eldest daughter but our youngest two children - aged 8 and 10 - seem to be oblivious to it. They haven't asked us any questions about it."

Mr Palmer explained that hotel staff had tried to shield tourists from what was going on, telling them to stay inside and not to worry.

"The staff in the hotel have been fantastic, they just want to protect us from it and not worry us," he said.

"In the bar there were pictures on the news of it.

"It was in Turkish so I couldn't understand it, but I could see from the pictures what was happening. The barman just turned it off so that it wouldn't worry anyone."

Dungannon woman Rebecca McSorley is in Kusadasi, a town on Turkey's west coast. She said she was "terrified" as she watched cars circling the streets, lights flashing and blaring their horns while men shouted.

She said not being able to understand what was going left her and her mum frightened.

"We were out shopping and suddenly we noticed the mood began to change, so we decided to leave and go back to the hotel. We looked out the balcony window and people were blocking the road in their cars and shouting.

"We were distraught, because we had no idea what was happening.

"The hotel staff told us the men were shouting, 'Stay out all night. Don't sleep to support the president,' but because they were working they too were confused about it.

"Things are back to normal now.

"There's still a bit of an atmosphere, as if people are still taking it in. Before, people were always saying hello to us and chatting, but now it's a lot quieter in town.

"We're going home tomorrow so we've been back at the hotel packing, but we wouldn't have any worry about going outside of the hotel."

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