Two children rescued from rubble days after earthquake in Turkey
Rescue teams have saved two girls from the wreck of their collapsed apartment building in the Turkish city of Izmir, three days after an earthquake.
The overall death toll from Friday’s quake reached 87 after teams found more bodies overnight amid toppled buildings in Turkey’s third-largest city.
Close to a thousand people were injured in the quake, which was centred in the Aegean Sea, north-east of the Greek island of Samos. It killed two teenagers on Samos and injured at least 19 other people on the island.
Rescue workers clapped as 14-year-old Idil Sirin was removed from the rubble, after being trapped for 58 hours. Her eight-year-old sister, Ipek, did not survive, NTV television reported.
Seven hours later, rescuers saved three-year-old Elif Perincek, whose mother and two sisters had been rescued two days earlier, from another toppled building. The child spent 65 hours in the wreckage of her apartment and became the 106th person to be rescued alive, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Muammer Celik of the Istanbul fire department’s search and rescue team told NTV television that he thought Elif was dead when he reached her inside the wreckage.
“There was dust on her face, her face was white,” he said. “When I cleaned the dust from her face, she opened her eyes. I was astonished.”
He added: “It was a miracle, it was a true miracle.”
The girl would not let go of his hand throughout the rescue operation, Mr Celik said, adding: “I am now her big brother.”
Onlookers applauded as ambulances carrying the girls rushed to hospitals immediately after their rescue.
There was some debate over the magnitude of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while Istanbul’s Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and Turkey’s emergency management agency said it measured 6.6.
The quake triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir, drowning one elderly woman. The tremors were felt across western Turkey including in Istanbul as well as in the Greek capital of Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.
Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal construction, which can lead to serious damage and deaths when earthquakes hit. Regulations have been tightened in light of earthquakes to strengthen or demolish buildings and urban renewal is under way in Turkish cities, but it is not happening fast enough.
Turkey sits on top of fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in north-western Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.