Newborns, toddlers survive days in rubble, bringing joy amid earthquake tragedy
ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) – Crouching under concrete slabs and whispering “Inshallah” (God willing), rescuers carefully reached into the rubble and then passed on their prize – a 10-day-old newborn who survived four days with his mother in the collapsed area Building.
Eyes wide open, Turkish baby Yagiz Ulas was wrapped in a shiny thermal blanket on Friday and taken to a medical field center in Samandag, Hatay province. Rescuers also carried his mother, dazed and pale but conscious, on a stretcher, video images from Turkey’s disaster agency showed.
The rescue of young children has lifted spirits for weary crews searching for survivors on the fifth day after a powerful earthquake hit Turkey and neighboring Syria that killed more than 22,000 people.
At least nine children were rescued Friday, videos released by disaster services showed, whose amazing survival inspired search parties who also rescued several trapped adults.
The rescuers, including special teams from dozens of countries, toiled all night in the ruins of thousands of destroyed buildings. In freezing temperatures, they regularly called for silence while listening for the sounds of life on mounds of scratched concrete.
In the Turkish town of Kahramanmaras, 200 km (125 miles) north of Samandag, orange-clad workers squeezed into an air pocket under a collapsed building to find a toddler, who wept as dust got into his eyes, before relief washed over him him and the rescuers gently laid his face brushed clean, as a video from the Turkish Defense Ministry showed.
Farther east, another boy’s fearful face peered out of a pancake house, his screams drowning out the sound of drills and grinders trying to extricate him on Friday morning in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, where the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck and turned aftershocks Blocks of flats in heaps of rubble and heaps of shattered masonry,
After opening a larger hole, workers put an oxygen mask on him and took him to safety. Like Baby Yagiz, he was followed on a stretcher by his mother 103 hours after the earthquake.
In Nurdagi, near Iskenderun, a Spanish rescuer said “I’ve got him, I’ve got him, let’s go” as he pulled a whimpering two-year-old boy from a collapsed building.
A human chain of soldiers from Spain’s Military Emergency Unit (UME) took the boy, Muslim Saleh, into a heated tent and minutes later took out his six-year-old sister Elif and then her mother, all alive and well.
“They didn’t need much treatment, just love, warmth, water and some fruit,” said Aurelio Soto, a UME spokesman.
Across the border in Syria, rescuers from the White Helmets group dug barehanded through plaster and cement, the air thick with dust, until they reached the bare foot of a young girl wearing pink pajamas, now dirty from the days when it was trapped but alive and free at last.
A day earlier, in the Syrian city of Azaz, Jomaa Biazid was reunited with his 18-month-old son Ibrahim, whom he had not seen since the earthquake destroyed the family home, killing his wife and daughter.
Rescuers had found the boy in the rubble and taken him to hospital, where a couple posted pictures of him on social media in hopes of locating relatives.
Standing in tears, scars and bloodstains on his face, Biazid looked stunned as his son called out “Baba” (“Father”) to him. Then he rushed forward to give the boy a kiss. Biazid said he is still looking for his other son, Mustafa.
(Additional Reporting by Elena Rodriguez; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel and Andrew Heavens; Editing by Nick Macfie)