• Mon. Jan 18th, 2021

Dramatic Rescues After Major Earthquake Kills at Least 28 in Turkey


Oct 31, 2020

Residents in the Turkish city of Izmir were holding out hope for survivors on Saturday as dramatic rescues unfolded a day after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck in the Aegean Sea, killing at least 30 people in Turkey and Greece, injuring more than 800 and leveling numerous residential buildings.

“The building is flattened, but I survived,” Oguz Demirkapi, a technology manager who had been rescued from the rubble of his apartment building on Friday, said in a video message posted from his hospital bed. He described being pulled from beneath 12 feet of debris.

“Life is beautiful,” Mr. Demirkapi said.

But many others were still trapped in the debris of flattened buildings, and hope was giving way to fear that some of the missing had died in the Friday afternoon quake, which was centered off Samos, a Greek island near Turkey’s coast.

In one eight-story apartment building alone, 40 people were still believed to be trapped under the rubble, Recep Salci, the head of AKUT, a leading search and rescue organization, said in televised remarks Saturday morning. He did not say whether he believed any had survived.

Many who escaped unhurt in the city spent Friday night and Saturday morning with blankets over their shoulders, afraid to return home as a wave of aftershocks shook the city. The government provided 10,000 beds and 3,000 tents for them, Murat Kurum, the environment and urban minister, said in a statement.

Local authorities and civil society groups supported the aid work, providing soup, tea, water, chargers, tents and face masks. In the city’s Bayrakli district alone, which took the brunt of the tremors, the authorities distributed 450,000 masks to protect against the coronavirus.

Serdar Sandal, the Bayrakli district mayor, said in an interview that an estimated 50 to 100 people in all were still believed to be trapped under the debris of five buildings. Seventeen buildings had collapsed entirely, and Mr. Sandal estimated that tens of thousands of people would ultimately be displaced once all the damaged buildings were accounted for.

ImageWatching rescue operations in Izmir on Saturday. 
Credit…Kemal Aslan/Reuters

‘‘It was an emotionally intense night,’’ said Ozgur Ozel, a member of Parliament who represents the region. ‘‘People waiting at the wreckage of collapsed buildings were feeling that they had a narrow escape — but minutes later they felt there was something wrong as one building was standing while the one next to it collapsed.’’

The city, though prone to earthquakes, has many older buildings that are not quake-resistant.

“Today what needs to be done is being done, but the important thing is what is to be done on Monday in the cabinet meeting,’’ said Mr. Ozel, an opposition lawmaker, who criticized the government for not taking steps to make buildings more resistant to quakes. “This is the shortcoming.’’

The death toll in Izmir rose to at least 28 people on Saturday, officials said. More than 350 people were being treated in hospitals, including 25 in intensive care, officials said. Two more people died on the Greek island of Samos.

Dramatic scenes unfolded throughout Saturday. At one apartment building, rescuers focused their efforts on saving five members of a family. After managing to open a tunnel through the rubble, they were able to talk to Seher Perincek, 38, who was trapped along with her 11-year-old twins, 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, according to local news reports.

Finally, 23 hours after the quake, Ms. Perincek and two of her children were removed from the wreckage alive, as seen in pictures shared with the press by local officials. One child had died, news reports said, and rescue workers continued searching for the fourth.

“For three hours we communicated with her,” Cem Behar, one of the rescuers who helped Ms. Perincek and her children, said in a televised interview.

“When we first entered, she was hitting the walls to identify where she was,” he added. “As we went further inside the wreckage, we were able to hear her voice, although muffled.”

Credit…Yasin Akgul/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But joy was tempered with grief at every stop. Rescue workers pulled 20 people alive from a seven-story building in the city, but they also found 12 bodies in the structure, the news agency DHA reported.

Mr. Demirkapi, the technology manager who had been rescued, was in his third-floor apartment in the Bayrakli district, when the tremors started Friday afternoon. He ran to a corner of his apartment and curled up in fetal position, he said, as his home crumbled around him.

“They pulled me out from four meters depth — I was down there for half an hour,” Mr. Demirkapi said. “I was very, very, very lucky — especially after I saw the pictures of the building”


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