IZMIR, Turkey – In scenes that captured Turkey’s emotional roller coaster after a deadly earthquake, rescue workers dug three girls alive from the rubble of collapsed homes on Monday, three days after the region was struck by a quake that left numerous lives came.
Spectators applauded for joy and wept with relief as ambulances rushed the girls to the hospital immediately after their rescue in the badly affected city of Izmir.
The death toll in the Friday quake reached 87 on Monday after teams found more bodies in overturned buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city.
Almost 1,000 people were injured, mainly in Turkey, by the quake in the Aegean Sea northeast of the Greek island of Samos. The death toll included two teenagers on Samos and at least 19 other people on the island were injured.
There has been some debate about the extent of the quake. The US Geological Survey rated it 7.0, the Istanbul Kandilli Institute 6.9 and the Turkish Emergency Management Agency 6.6.
Rescue workers clapped together on Monday when 14-year-old Idil Sirin was removed from the rubble after being trapped for 58 hours. Her 8-year-old sister Ipek did not survive, NTV television reported.
Seven hours later, rescuers working on another fallen building rescued three-year-old Elif Perincek, whose mother and two sisters had been rescued two days earlier. The child spent 65 hours in the rubble of his home and became the 106th person saved 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 in the wreck.
“There was dust on her face, her face was white,” he said. “When I removed the dust from her face, she opened her eyes. I was surprised.”
Celik said, “It was a miracle, it was a real miracle.”
The girl wouldn’t let go of his hand during the rescue operation, Celik said, adding, “I’m her big brother now.”
The girl held Celik’s thumb and was carried on a stretcher into a tent where she was treated before being taken to the hospital. Rescuers shed tears of joy and hugged.
Rescue workers, trying to find more survivors, used listening devices to detect signs of life.
“Can someone hear me?” yelled a team leader, asking any survivors to hit surfaces three times if they could.
Officials said 220 quake survivors were still in the hospital and four of them were in serious condition.
The quake also triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district in Izmir, drowning an elderly woman. The tremors could be felt all over western Turkey, including Istanbul and the Greek capital Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.
Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal structures that can cause serious damage and death in an earthquake. In the face of earthquakes, regulations have been tightened to strengthen or demolish older buildings. Urban renewal is currently being carried out in Turkish cities, but it is not happening quickly enough.
Turkey lies on fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed around 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are common in Greece too.