Saturday 16 December 2017

Tears of joy as survivors pulled from quake rubble

Selcan Hacaoglu in Ercis, Turkey

TEARS of joy and sorrow were wept by families yesterday as a few lucky survivors and many more victims were pulled out of the rubble.

The 7.2-magnitude quake levelled over a hundred buildings in eastern Turkey. Despite the devastation there were some miracles amongst the ruins.

One trapped man saved his own life by calling for help on his mobile phone, and others survived being buried alive for more than a day.

But as the death toll rose to 279 from Sunday's quake, dozens of people were still trapped in mounds of broken concrete, twisted steel and other construction debris after buildings in two cities and mud-brick homes in nearby villages pancaked or partially collapsed.

Dozens more were placed in body bags or covered by blankets, laid down in rows so people could search for their missing relatives.

"It's my grandson's wife. She was stuck underneath rubble," said Mehmet Emin Umac.

Worst-hit was Ercis, where about 80 multi-storey buildings collapsed. The eastern city of 75,000 lies close to the Iranian border in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones.

"My nephew, his wife and their child, all three dead. May God protect us from this kind of grief," resident Kursat Lap said.

Several other men carried a child's body wrapped in a white cloth as weeping family members followed behind.

Yalcin Akay, meanwhile, was dug out from a collapsed six-storey building with a leg injury after he called a police emergency line on his phone and described his location, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Three others, including two children, were also rescued from the same building in Ercis 20 hours after the quake struck, officials said.

Two other survivors were trapped for over 27 hours.

Abdurrahman Antakyali (20) was brought out of a crumbled internet cafe after an eight-hour-long joint rescue effort by Turkish and Azerbaijani teams. His father and brother wept with joy as he emerged.

Tugba Altinkaynak (21) had been at a family lunch with 12 other relatives when the earthquake hit. She was rescued but there was no immediate word on the fate of her relatives.


More than 2,000 teams with a dozen sniffer dogs were involved in search-and-rescue and aid efforts, and more often than not they found dead bodies, not survivors. Cranes and other heavy equipment lifted slabs of concrete, allowing residents to dig for the missing with shovels.

Those efforts were hampered by over 200 aftershocks that rocked the area, with one yesterday rising up to 5.0 magnitude.

Aid groups scrambled to set up tents, field hospitals and kitchens to help the thousands left homeless or too afraid to re-enter their homes.

Deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc said the quake left 279 dead and some 1,300 injured.

Leaders around the world conveyed their condolences and offered assistance, but prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was able to cope for now.

Among those offering help were Israel, Greece and Armenia, who all have had issues in their relations with Turkey.

Irish Independent

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