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Sunday, 31 May 2020

Boy's rescue five days after Turkish quake lifts spirits

Thirteen-year-old is rescued from rubble following Sunday's earthquake in eastern Turkey that left at least 570 dead

Reuters , Friday 28 Oct 2011
Turkish rescuers tend Ferhat Tokay, 13, after he was pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building in Ercis, Van, Turkey, early Friday, (Photo: AP).
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Rescue workers pulled a 13-year-old boy alive out of the rubble of an apartment block on Friday, five days after a powerful earthquake that killed at least 570 people in eastern Turkey.

"It is a great miracle," Neriman, the boy's 34-year-old mother told Reuters. "He told me he prayed and when he said all his prayers and there were no more left he recited the national anthem."

The rescue lifted Turkish spirits as thousands of quake survivors endured a fifth freezing and wet night without a roof over their heads, and recriminations flew over the pace of relief and the shoddy construction that led to so much damage.

The boy, Ferhat Tokay, was put in a neck brace and taken on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance after being rescued in Ercis, the town hardest hit by Sunday's 7.2 magnitude quake, television images showed.

"We started digging and at first we saw his hand. And then we started speaking to him. He said 'I am hungry and thirsty'," an exhausted but elated medic, Baris Dogan, told Reuters.

"It was like taking my own son out."

Doctors at the hospital in Van, where he was taken, said the boy's condition was relatively good. A few steps away in the intensive care unit, relatives of other quake victims broke down in tears as doctors gave them bad news about their loved ones.

Tokay was rescued from the first floor of a collapsed seven-storey block of flats where he lived with his family on the main street in Ercis, opposite a mosque whose minarets had collapsed.

Around 50 people dug on through the rubble in the hope of finding more people alive. As many as ten were still missing from the building but there were no immediate signs of life.

Tokay was rescued hours after an 18-year-old man was brought out late on Thursday to cheers among grief-stricken quake survivors.

People left homeless by the quake in the predominantly Kurdish eastern province of Van have complained bitterly over the slow delivery of relief items like tents.

Drenched by pouring rain, more and more are falling sick, and with the first winter snows expected in November there is an urgent need to get people under cover fast.

A doctor in Van told Reuters his hospital had received 700 patients suffering cold-related problems on Thursday alone. Many people were also treated for anxiety.

Although search operations are beginning to wind down, 187 people have been found alive under collapsed buildings since the quake struck on Sunday afternoon, according to an official count.

The Disaster and Emergency Administration said on Friday the death toll had risen to 573, with 2,608 people hurt in Turkey's biggest quake in more than a decade.

No official figures were available for the homeless.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies put the number of "affected people" at 50,000.

In Ercis alone, a town of around 100,000 people, hardly anyone was going back to their homes, even if they were still standing.

President Abdullah Gul announced that parades and receptions for Republic Day on Saturday had been cancelled, and went on to bemoan poor construction and lack of inspections in Turkey that led to a "problem of shoddy buildings.”

"While the Van earthquake has reminded us of the reality that ours is a country prone to earthquakes, it has also shown the destruction caused by neglect and irresponsibility," he said.

Two or three tent cities have sprouted up on the outskirts of Ercis, but thousands of men, having settled children and women as best they can, wander at night looking for shelter.

With nowhere to go, they lean against walls to protect themselves from the rain.

Some survivors, who had stood in long queues only to be told there were no tents left, accused officials of handing aid to supporters of the ruling AK party. Others said profiteers were hoarding tents and reselling them.

Scuffles broke out in one long line to a distribution centre, before police stepped in to calm tempers.

Any accusations of neglect or ineptitude can be politically sensitive.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited the area hours after the quake and wants to build bridges with Turkey's minority Kurds and is expected to go again at the weekend.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in a Kurdish separatist insurgency in the region that has lasted three decades. Last week militants killed 24 troops in neighbouring Hakkari province.

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