70-year-old pulled out alive in Turkey as quake toll hits 75

IZMIR, Turkey (AP) — Rescue workers in western Turkey extricated a 70-year-old man from a collapsed building Sunday, some 34 hours after a strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece, killing at least 75 people and injuring close to 1,000. 

The man was pulled out of the rubble overnight and doing well at a hospital, according to the Turkish health minister. The minister tweeted that the survivor, Ahmet Citim, told him, “I never lost hope.” The operation that saved Citim was the latest in a series of remarkable rescues after the Friday afternoon earthquake.

But on the third day since the disaster, search-and-rescue teams appeared to be finding more bodies than survivors in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city. They continued searching in eight toppled buildings, but work was paused at one when authorities determined the damaged structure next door was also at risk of falling, forcing rescuers and people waiting outside to retreat.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca speaks with Ahmet Citim, rescued from the debris of his collapsed house, in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. In the latest of series of remarkable rescues after the Friday afternoon earthquake, rescue workers extricated the 70-year-old man from the collapsed building earlier on Sunday, some 34 hours after the strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece, killing dozens of people and injuring scores of others(Turkey Health Ministry via AP)
Members of rescue services search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

On Monday, Istanbul fire department’s search-and-rescue team told The Associated Press, recounting the operation 65 hours after the quake hit, firefighter Muammer Celik reached a 3-year-old girl trapped for three days under the rubble of a deadly earthquake in a Turkish coastal city, his heart sank. She was lying motionless, covered in dust, and he asked a colleague for a body bag.

But as Celik extended his arm to wipe her face, the child opened her eyes and grabbed hold of his thumb.

In this slow expose photograph, members of rescue services work in the debris of a collapsed building, in Izmir, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. In scenes that captured Turkey’s emotional roller-coaster after a deadly earthquake, rescue workers dug two girls out alive Monday from the rubble of collapsed apartment buildings three days after the region was jolted by quake that killed scores of people. Close to a thousand people were injured. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
In this photo made available by Turkey’s Health Ministry, 3-year-old girl Elif Perincek rests in her hospital bed after she was rescued from the rubble of a building some 65 hours after a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Izmir, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens. Close to a thousand people were injured. (Turkish Health Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided by the government’s Search and Rescue agency AFAD, rescue workers, who were trying to reach survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building, carry to an ambulance 14-year-old Idil Sirin who have been extricated from a collapsed building early Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, 58 hours after a strong earthquake in Izmir, Turkey. Rescue teams on Monday brought out two girls alive from the wreck of their collapsed apartment buildings in the Turkish coastal city, three days after a strong earthquake centered in the Aegean Sea hit Turkey and Greece. (AFAD via AP)
In this handout photo made available by the Istanbul Fire Authority, members of various rescue services carry 3-year-old girl Elif Perincek, after she was rescued from the rubble of a building some 65 hours after a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Izmir, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens. Close to a thousand people were injured.(Istanbul Fire Authority via AP)

“That’s where we saw a miracle,” Celik of the Istanbul fire department’s search-and-rescue team told The Associated Press, recounting Monday’s operation 65 hours after the quake hit, killing at least 94 people in Turkey and Greece.

It was the second dramatic rescue Monday after a 14-year-old was also pulled out alive. Onlookers applauded with joy and wept with relief at both scenes in the Turkish city of Izmir, where the vast majority of the deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries have occurred. Two teenagers also died and 19 people were injured on the Greek island of Samos, near the quake’s epicenter in the Aegean Sea.

Members of rescue services search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens and hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Members of rescue services search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, early Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
The interior of a destroyed living room of a family flat is seen after the building collapsed in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The earthquake was centered in the Aegean northeast of the Greek island of Samos. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) raised the death toll Sunday in Izmir province to 73. The agency said 961 people were injured in Turkey, with more than 220 still receiving treatment Sunday.

The earthquake also killed two teenagers on Samos and injured at least 19 other people on the island.

Local residents, staying outdoors for fear of aftershocks, watch as members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Member of rescue services take a break during search operations in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A member of rescue services rests during search operations in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A member of rescue services takes a break during the search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens. Close to a thousand people were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Local residents stay outdoors for fear of strong aftershocks after an earthquake collapsed their houses, in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. The strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece on Friday. (AP Photo/Ismail Gokmen)
A man sleeps outdoors for fear of strong aftershocks after an earthquake collapsed their houses, in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. The strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece on Friday. (AP Photo/Ismail Gokmen)
A local resident, staying outdoors for fear of aftershocks, pauses as he watches members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Local residents, staying outdoors for fear of aftershocks, watch from a coffee shop, as members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Local residents, staying outdoors for fear of aftershocks, watch as members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Local residents stay outdoors for fear of strong aftershocks after the earthquake collapsed their houses and watch rescue workers trying to reach survivors, in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens. Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Ismail Gokmen)

There was some debate over the magnitude of the earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while the Istanbul’s Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and AFAD said it measured 6.6.

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

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said 26 badly damaged buildings would be demolished in Izmir.

In this photo provided by Turkey’s IHH humanitarian aid group, a member of rescue services, guides others during searching for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured. (IHH via AP)
Members of rescue services work on the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Members of rescue services search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Rescue workers, who were trying to reach survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building, leave the area as the adjacent building at the right started moving, in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens. Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Ismail Gokmen)
Members of rescue services sit in silence as they search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Rescue teams continue ploughing through concrete blocs and debris of collapsed buildings in Turkey’s third largest city in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, Friday Oct. 30, killing dozens Hundreds of others were injured.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

“It’s not the earthquake that kills but buildings,” he added, repeating a common slogan.

Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal construction, which can lead to serious damage and deaths when earthquakes hit. Regulations have been tightened in light of earthquakes to strengthen or demolish buildings and urban renewal is underway in Turkish cities but it is not happening fast enough.

Two destroyed apartment buildings in Izmir where much of the rescues are taking place had received reports of “decay” in 2012 and 2018, according to the municipal agency in charge of such certificates. Turkish media including the Hurriyet newspaper said one of the apartments, which was built in 1993, was at risk of earthquake damage because of its low quality concrete and the lack of reinforcements. However, the building continued to be occupied.

A 73-year-old survivor from one of those buildings said she was on her third-floor balcony when the quake struck and believes there were at least 50 people in the building, which also had a café on the bottom floor. 

“In the first tremor nothing happened. During the second tremor, the seventh floor, sixth and fourth floors fell on top of another like a sandwich,” Suzan Dere said. “The building collapsed in a cloud of dust onto the street with a very loud noise. It all happened within one minute.”

Turkey’s justice minister said prosecutors have begun investigating several collapsed buildings and promised legal repercussions if experts identified neglect. 

AFAD said nearly 6,400 personnel had been activated for rescue work and hundreds of others for food distribution, emergency help and building damage control. 

Turkey is crisscrossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.

In a rare show of unity amid months of tense relations over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek and Turkish government officials issued mutual messages of solidarity over the quake toll.

Pope Francis on Sunday asked the faithful to pray for the people of the Aegean Sea. 

The quake occurred as Turkey was already struggling with an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic. So far, Turkey has more than 10,000 confirmed virus deaths but some experts have accused the government of concealing the true impact of the virus with the way it counts new cases.

By : MEHMET GUZEL and ZEYNEP BILGINSOY – AP News

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