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Turkey earthquake: Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu's body found under rubble

Atsu had been scheduled to fly out of southern Turkey hours before the quake
Christian Atsu during his stint with Newcastle United on 25 January 2020 (Reuters)

Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu has been found dead under the building where he lived in southern Turkey after last week's massive earthquake, the ex-Chelsea winger's Turkish agent said on Saturday.

"Atsu's lifeless body was found under the rubble," Murat Uzunmehmet told reporters in Hatay, where the athlete's body was found. "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 rocked the region on 6 February, but the manager of Hatayspor, who he played for, said on Friday that the Ghanaian opted to stay with the club after scoring the game-winning goal in a 5 February Super Lig match.

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According to Turkish media, the 31-year-old former player of English sides Chelsea and Newcastle was under the rubble of the Ronesans residence, a 12-storey tower that collapsed in the earthquake.

The developer of the once-luxury residence, where 800 people are believed to be buried, was arrested last week as he tried to leave Turkey.

The Ghanaian Embassy in Turkey and the Ghana Football Federation initially claimed that the striker had been found alive, but this information was later proven to be false.

"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 several 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.

Atsu joined Turkish club Hatayspor in September. The team is based in the province of Hatay, near the epicentre of the earthquake.

The quake, which was followed by powerful aftershocks, killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey and Syria, leaving thousands injured and homeless in the freezing cold.

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