Wednesday 26 October 2011

Baby plucked from Turkey quake rubble

Updated October 26, 2011 06:01:06
Rescuers have plucked a two-week-only baby, then her mother and finally her grandmother from the rubble of Turkey's earthquake that killed over 400 people.
The three rescues occurred at two-hour intervals in the town of Ercis, which bore the brunt of Sunday's 7.2 magnitude quake in eastern Van province.
The first to be saved around midday (local time) was baby Azra Karaduman, who was whisked by helicopter ambulance to the capital Ankara for medical treatment.
She had spent some 48 hours under the rubble.
Then teams pulled out the baby's mother Seniha, who had no life-threatening injuries but needed food and water, rescuers said, adding that she was taken to a field hospital some four kilometres away.
Seniha was clutching baby Azra to her chest when rescuers reached them.
Relief workers then saved Azra's 73-year-old grandmother Gulzade Karaduman, who had a foot trapped in the debris.
She was carried off in an ambulance among cheers and applause.
The baby's father was believed to be still trapped in the rubble along with five or six other people, rescue workers said, adding that sniffer dogs were deployed to locate the living.
Earlier, search teams working round the clock rescued a pregnant woman and her two children and also dug out a police officer and his wife from their collapsed homes.
As the body bags piled up and charity Red Crescent warned that hundreds or even thousands of people remained buried under the debris, the rescues sparked joy amid the otherwise grim task.
The death toll from the quake stands at 432, with more than 1,300 other injured in the country's east.
As rescuers pulled out more bodies, residents slept around small fires in towns rattled by aftershocks across Van province, near the Iranian border.
Workers used heavy machinery, jackhammers, shovels, pickaxes and bare hands to comb through smashed concrete and steel.
Every so often, exhausted rescuers would shout for silence and generators and diggers would stop, straining to hear voices under the wreckage. Seconds later the drone of the machinery would start again.
"Life has become hell. We are outside, the weather is cold. There are no tents," said Emin Kayram, 53, sitting by a camp fire in the town of Ercis after spending the night with his family of eight in a van parked nearby.
His nephew was trapped in the rubble of a building behind him, where rescue workers had been digging through the night.
The space we had was so narrow. People were fighting for more space to survive. I rested my head on a dead man's foot. I know I would be dead now if I had let myself go psychologically.
Quake survivor Mesut Ozan Yilmaz, 18
"He is 18, a student. He is still stuck in there. This is the third day but you can't lose hope. We have to wait here," he said.
Crowds formed at one demolished building where bystanders said a trapped boy had made contact by mobile phone.
As a rescue team dug at the rubble, one man screamed at the workers: "Where were you last night? I told you last night there were people here."
Casualties have been mostly in Ercis and the provincial capital Van. Officials are checking outlying areas.
"It was like judgment day," said Mesut Ozan Yilmaz, 18, who survived for 32 hours under the rubble of a tea house where he had been passing time with friends.
Unhurt but lying on a hospital bed under a thick blanket, his face blackened by dust and dirt, Mr Yilmaz gave a chilling account to CNN Turk of how he survived by diving under a table.
"The space we had was so narrow. People were fighting for more space to survive," Mr Yilmaz said. "I rested my head on a dead man's foot. I know I would be dead now if I had let myself go psychologically."
As grieving families prepared to bury their dead, others kept vigil by the mounds of concrete rubble and masonry, praying rescue teams would find missing loved ones alive.
Rescue teams concentrated efforts in Ercis, a town of 100,000 that was worst hit by the 7.2 magnitude tremor.

Not enough tents

Residents spent the night outside, fearing to return to their damaged homes.
"We are afraid. Tremors are happening all the time. Pieces of concrete are falling off buildings," said Farzande Dilmac, 70, pointing to an empty block of flats riven by large cracks.
"Our people are in a bad state, what can we do?" he said as a score of women, their heads wrapped in coloured scarves, began wailing.
The Turkish Red Crescent distributed up to 13,000 tents, and was preparing temporary shelter for about 40,000 people, although there were no reliable figures for the homeless.
Prime minister Tayyip Erdogan's government has received international offers of assistance from dozens of countries around the world, including from former ally Israel, but has so far accepted aid only from Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Iran.
The Red Crescent was criticised for failing to ensure that some of the neediest, particularly in villages, received tents as night temperatures plummeted. The government has apologised for the slowness in distributing tents.
"We were sent 25 tents for 150 homes. Everybody is waiting outside, we've got small children, we've got nothing left," said Ahmet Arikes, the 60-year-old headman of Amik, a village outside Van that was reduced to rubble.
Television images showed desperate men pushing each other roughly to grab tents from the back of a Red Crescent truck.
"I didn't think the Red Crescent was successful enough in giving away tents," Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party, told CNN Turk. "I apologise to our people."
Soon after, the relief agency's chairman told the news channel that 12,000 more tents would reach Van on Tuesday. Deputy prime minister Besir Atalay, overseeing relief operations there, said: "From today there will be nothing our people lack."

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