Turkish teams hunt for quake survivors as death toll grows
Ankara, Turkey – Working against the clock in freezing temperatures, Turkish rescue teams pulled more survivors from collapsed buildings Sunday, days after a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the country’s east. Rescued survivors wept with gratitude for their efforts.
Turkish authorities said the death toll rose to at least 38 people from the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Friday night.
Turkish television showed Ayse Yildiz, 35, and her 2-year-old daughter Yusra being dragged out of the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in the city of Elazig. They had been trapped for 28 hours.
The quake also injured over 1,600 people but at least 45 survivors have been pulled alive from the rubble so far, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference Sunday in Istanbul.
More than 780 aftershocks rocked the region as over 3,500 rescue experts scrambled through wrecked buildings to reach survivors, working around the clock. Rescue teams concentrated their efforts in the city’s Mustafa Pasa neighborhood and the nearby town of Sivrice.
One rescued couple was reunited with a Syrian student who had helped to dig them out of their collapsed home with his hands.
“He is our hero and angel,” a weeping Dudane Aydin said of Mahmud al Osman in an interview on Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.
Her husband Zulkuf added: “When I saw the light of Mahmud’s phone, we started shouting for help. Then we knew we would get out.”
He said Mahmud helped him out but when the student tried to rescue his wife her leg was trapped by debris.
“Some locals held Mahmud by the legs and stretching towards my wife he worked to save her. After saving my wife, he tried to help others,” the man said.
As overnight temperatures dropped to -5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), emergency teams set up more than 9,500 tents for displaced residents and distributed 17,000 hot meals.
The agency said 76 buildings were destroyed and more than 1,000 were damaged by the quake.