Rescuers pull girl from rubble four days after Turkey earthquake

The three-year-old had been trapped in the rubble for 91 hours in Izmir.
The three-year-old had been trapped in the rubble for 91 hours in Izmir. The three-year-old had been trapped in the rubble for 91 hours in Izmir.

Rescuers in the Turkish city of Izmir have pulled a young girl alive from the rubble of a collapsed apartment building, four days after a strong earthquake hit Turkey and Greece.

Wrapped in a thermal blanket, the girl was taken into an ambulance on a stretcher to the sounds of applause and chants of “God is great!” from rescue workers and onlookers.

Health minister Fahrettin Koca identified her as three-year-old Ayda Gezgin and shared a video of her inside an ambulance.

She had been trapped in the rubble for 91 hours since Friday’s quake struck in the Aegean Sea. She was the 107th person to be pulled out of collapsed buildings alive.

Ayda’s mother did not survive and her body was found in the wreckage hours later. Her brother and father were not in the building at the time of the quake.

Rescuer Nusret Aksoy told reporters he was sifting through the rubble of a toppled eight-storey building when he heard a child’s scream and called for silence. He later located the girl in a tight space next to a dishwasher.

The girl waved at him, told him her name and said that she was OK, Mr Aksoy said.

“I got goosebumps and my colleague Ahmet cried,” he told HaberTurk television.

Ibrahim Topal, of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, said: “My colleague and I looked at each other like, ‘Did you hear that too?’.

“We listened again. There was a very weak voice saying something like, ‘I’m here’. Then we shut everything down, the machines, and started listening again. And there really was a voice.”

Health ministry officials said the girl was in good condition but would be kept under observation in hospital for a while. She asked for her mother as well as for meatballs and a yoghurt drink on her way to hospital, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Her rescue came the day after another three-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl were also pulled out alive from collapsed buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.

The death toll climbed to 112 after emergency crews retrieved more bodies from toppled buildings in the city. Officials said 138 survivors were still in hospital, with three in serious condition.

“We will not lose hope (about finding survivors) until our search and rescue efforts reach the last person under the wreck,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting.

He said around 6,700 people who had lost their homes or were too frightened to return to them were being temporarily housed in tents. Authorities are assembling containers to house the survivors, he added.

The US Geological Survey registered the quake’s magnitude at 7.0, though other agencies recorded it as less severe.

The vast majority of the deaths and 1,000 injuries occurred in Izmir. Two teenagers also died and 19 people were injured on the Greek island of Samos, near the quake’s epicentre in the Aegean Sea.

The quake triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir province, where one elderly woman drowned. The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul, as well as in the Greek capital of Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.

In Izmir, the quake reduced buildings to rubble or saw floors pancake in on themselves, and authorities detained nine people, including contractors, for questioning over the collapse of six buildings.

Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal constructions that do not withstand earthquakes well. Regulations have been tightened to strengthen or demolish older buildings, and urban renewal is under way in Turkish cities, but experts say it is not happening fast enough.

The country sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent.