Turkey Earthquake Rescuers Free Baby Girl from Rubble
A total of 366 people are now known to have died in the quake in Van province, near the Iranian border, Turkey’s disaster and emergency administration said. More than 2,200 buildings were destroyed, many of them in the worst-affected zone near the town of Ercis, close to the epicentre.
The baby girl, named as Azra Karaduman, was pulled from the wreckage of an apartment building in Ercis on Tuesday. TV footage showed orange-clad rescuers clapping as the naked infant was removed. She was wrapped in a blanket and passed to doctors.
A BBC reporter in Ercis said the mother and grandmother of the baby, who was a month premature, were known to be alive but were still trapped inside the building. Azra’s grandfather was waiting outside.
Van, the much bigger provincial capital about 60 miles to the south, was also affected by the earthquake, but most of the remaining rescue efforts are centred in Ercis.
Another, more maudlin, area of focus in the town has been nine-year-old Oguz Isler, who was pulled from another toppled apartment building, where his aunt had lived, late on Sunday. Since then he has been outside the wrecked building, in the glare of the assembled media, awaiting news of his parents and of other relatives who remain buried inside.
“They should send more people,” he said, being comforted by an aunt. The boy had been trapped with his sister and a cousin on a third-floor stairwell as they tried to escape when the quake hit. A steel door fell over him.
“I fell on the ground face down. When I tried to move my head, it hit the door,” he said. “I tried to get out and was able to open a gap with my fists in the wall but could not move my body further. The wall crumbled quickly when I hit it.
“We started shouting: ‘Help! We’re here,’ ” he said. “They found us a few hours later, they took me out about eight-and-a-half hours later.” The sister and cousin were also pulled out alive.
Initially there was criticism of the speed of the emergency response, but it now appears to be operating well. The country is used to earthquakes and revamped its response following a severe quake in the north-west in 1999 which killed more than 17,000 people.
Another major operation has involved providing emergency shelter to tens of thousands of people whose homes were either destroyed or remain unsafe amid regular aftershocks. “It is a very urgent situation,” said Hakki Erskoy, a disaster manager for the Turkish Red Crescent, adding that his organisation was dealing with 40,000 homeless people. “Right now, we are facing a race against time to provide shelter for people.”
The organisation has set up tented relief camps in two stadiums in Ercis and distributed tents to those who prefer to remain near their homes. It was also handing out supplies such as blankets, sleeping bags and heaters.
Some significant relief efforts were being organised via social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Erhan Çelik, a journalist for Turkey’s Kanal 7 TV station, passed to his 22,000 Twitter followers an appeal for people to offer accommodation to those made homeless. Within a few hours, he said, he had received 17,000 emails in response.