Miracle Baby Emerges from Turkish Quake Rubble
The death toll from Sunday's 7.2-magnitude quake climbed to at least 459 as desperate survivors fought over aid and blocked aid shipments.
Selcan Hacaoglu and Suzan Fraser The Associated Press
October 25, 2011ERCIS, Turkey (AP) -- After 48 hours, a miracle emerged from the rubble: a 2-week-old baby girl brought out half-naked but alive from the wreckage of an apartment building toppled by Turkey's devastating earthquake.
Rescue workers erupted in cheers and applause Tuesday at sight of the infant - and again hours later when her mother and grandmother were pulled out, their survival a ray of joy on an otherwise grim day.
The death toll from Sunday's 7.2-magnitude quake climbed to at least 459 as desperate survivors fought over aid and blocked aid shipments. A powerful aftershock ignited widespread panic that turned into a prison riot in a nearby provincial city.
With thousands of quake survivors facing a third night out in the open in near-freezing temperatures, Turkey set aside its national pride and said it would accept international aid offers, even from Israel, with which it has had strained relations.
Tuesday's dramatic rescue of three generations of one family was all the more remarkable because the infant, Azra Karaduman, was declared healthy after being flown to a hospital in Ankara, the Turkish capital.
Television footage showed rescuer Kadir Direk in an orange jumpsuit wriggling into a narrow slit in the pile of concrete and metal, then sliding back out with Azra, clad only in a T-shirt.
"Praise be!" someone shouted. "Get out of the way!" another yelled as the aid team and bystanders cleared a path to a waiting ambulance.
"Bringing them out is such happiness. I wouldn't be happier if they gave me tons of money," said rescuer Oytun Gulpinar.
The pockets of jubilation were tempered by many more discoveries of bodies by thousands of aid workers in the worst-hit city of Ercis and other communities in eastern Turkey devastated by the earthquake.
Even rescues were tinged with sadness: 10-year-old Serhat Gur was pulled alive from the rubble of a building after being trapped for 54 hours, only to die a short time later at a hospital, state-run TRT television reported.
Some 2,000 buildings collapsed, but the fact that the quake hit in daytime, when many people were out of their homes, averted an even worse disaster.
Close to 500 aftershocks have rattled the area, according to Turkey's Kandilli seismology center. A strong one on Tuesday sent residents rushing into the streets in panic while sparking a riot by prisoners in the city of Van, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Ercis. The U.S. Geological Survey put that temblor at a magnitude of 5.7.
Some prisoners demanded to be let out while others set bedding on fire as the revolt spread inside the 1,000-bed prison, the Dogan news agency reported. Security forces surrounded the facility to try to prevent escapes, while military vehicles fired water cannon at crowds gathered outside in the streets.
There was still no power or running water in the region, and desperate people stopped trucks even before they entered Ercis, grabbing tents and other supplies. Kanal D television showed people fighting over tents and blankets.
Aid workers said they were able to find emergency housing for only about half the thousands of people who needed it.
Turkey decided to accept offers of assistance after its emergency management authorities decided that thousands of survivors would need prefabricated homes to get through the winter in the mountainous region, said a Turkish Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules.
Israel offered assistance despite a rift between the two countries over last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists.
At least 1,352 people were injured in the quake, TRT television said. Nine people were rescued Tuesday, although many more bodies were discovered.
The mother of the rescued baby, Semiha Karaduman, and the child's grandmother, Gulsaadet, were huddled together with the infant held tight against her mother's shoulder when rescuers found them, Direk told The Associated Press.
Hours after the infant was freed, the two adults were pulled from the half-flattened building and rushed to ambulances as onlookers clapped and cheered. The mother had been semiconscious, but woke up when rescuers arrived, Direk said.
Firefighters and rescuers ordered silence while they listened for noise from other possible survivors in the five-story apartment block, parts of which were being supported by a crane. But workers could not find the baby's father and there were no other signs of life, Direk said.
He said he chatted with the mother while trying to get her out, at one point jokingly suggesting she name the baby after his own son, Cagan.
"She replied that the baby was a girl, and that she wanted her named Azra," he said.
The family live in Sivas in central Turkey but were visiting the girl's grandparents in Ercis, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
It was not clear if her mother was able to breast-feed Azra, but "if the mother was able to keep the baby warm by using her own body, that would be good enough," said Gerald Rockenshaub, disaster response manager at the World Health Organization.
He said the first 48 to 72 hours are crucial for rescues and the chances of finding survivors decrease significantly after that. People can survive without food for a week or so, but having access to water is critical, especially for the elderly and infants, he said.
A 9-year-old boy who was rescued earlier along with his sister and cousin, waited anxiously Tuesday at the pile of debris that used to be his aunt's apartment block for news of his parents or other relatives buried inside.
"They should send more people," Oguz Isler said as a cousin comforted him.
Rescuer workers searched through the debris, using excavators, picks and shovels. Dogs sniffed for possible survivors. Mehmet Ali Hekimoglu, a medic, said the dogs indicated there were three or four people inside the building, but it was not known if they were alive.
Oguz, his sister and a cousin were trapped in the building's third-floor stairway as they tried to escape after the quake hit. A steel door fell over him.
"I fell on the ground face down. When I tried to move my head, it hit the door," he said. "I tried to get out and was able to open a gap with my fists in the wall but could not move my body further."
He said they shouted for help, and were pulled out more than eight hours later.
Turkey lies in one of the world's most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.
Istanbul, the country's largest city with more than 12 million people, lies in northwestern Turkey near a major fault line, and experts say tens of thousands could be killed if a major quake struck there.
Associated Press writer Christopher Torchia in Istanbul contributed to this report.