Christian Atsu found dead in rubble of Turkey earthquake - agent

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, who was 31, had been missing since the Feb. 6 earthquake following the collapse of an apartment building in Hatay province.

"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."

Antakya, the city where Hatayspor is based, is in the southern region of Turkey hardest hit by the earthquake.

Atsu had been scheduled to fly out of southern Turkey hours before the quake, but Hatayspor's manager said Friday the Ghanaian player opted to stay with the club after scoring the winning goal in a Feb. 5 Super Lig match.

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 wrote on Twitter.

Newcastle also paid tribute on their official website: "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 on Saturday.

A day after the earthquake, reports circulated that Atsu had been rescued following information that Hatayspor had received; however they later said the reports were heartbreakingly mistaken and the player was still missing.

It had also said the club's sporting director, Taner Savut, was still missing. Savut has not been found.

The contractor of the 12-story Ronesans Rezidans building -- where Atsu and Savut lived -- was detained at Istanbul Airport a week ago, apparently trying to leave the country.

More than 45,000 people have been killed in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, and the toll is expected to rise with some 264,000 apartments in Turkey destroyed and many still missing in the country's worst modern disaster.

Information from Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.