British rescuer risks his life crawling through tiny tunnel in collapsed Turkish building to save trapped victim as crews continue to find people alive more than a WEEK after earthquake
- Video shows British rescuer going to extraordinary lengths to reach survivors
- Search teams are facing race against time to reach people alive after earthquake
British rescue crews are going to extraordinary lengths to reach survivors who have been trapped underneath collapsed buildings for a week after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria.
Remarkable footage shows a British rescuer risking his life by crawling through tiny tunnels created through the rubble to find a Turkish man who had been trapped for nearly a week in Hatay province, southern Turkey.
Search teams are facing a race against time as experts caution that hopes for finding people alive in the debris dim with each passing day.
But today, rescuers pulled a 40-year-old woman, Sibel Kaya, from the wreckage of a five-story building in the Turkish town of Islahiye, a week after two powerful earthquakes annihilated much of Turkey and Syria. Kaya had spent 170 hours beneath the rubble.
And last night, rescuers pulled a seven-year-old boy, Mustafa, and 62-year-old Nafize Yilmaz out from underneath the wreckage after spending 163 hours trapped amongst bricks and rubble in Hatay province.
Remarkable footage shows a British rescuer risking his life by crawling through tiny tunnels created through the rubble to find a Turkish man who had been trapped for nearly a week in Hatay province, southern Turkey
Footage shows the rescuer breathing heavily as he lowers his body into a small hole amongst the rubble – knowing that any slight movement could cause the building to collapse further and kill him
Serap Donmez is rescued from under rubble of a collapsed building 176 hours after the earthquake struck in Turkey
An aerial view of collapsed buildings as search and rescue efforts continue in Hatay, Turkey, following 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria
Rescue workers in the devastated Turkish city of Kahramanmaras had also made contact with three survivors, believed to be a mother, daughter and baby, in the ruins of a building.
However, reports of rescues are becoming rarer as the time since the quake reaches the limits of the human body’s ability to survive without water, especially in sub-freezing temperatures.
The magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 quakes struck nine hours apart in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6.
At least 33,185 people were killed, with the death toll expected to rise considerably as search teams find more bodies, and towns and cities inhabited by millions reduced to fragments of concrete and twisted metal.
Turkey’s disaster agency said more than 32,000 people from Turkish organisations were working on search-and-rescue efforts, along with 8,294 international rescuers.
A member of a British search team posted a remarkable video showing a fellow rescuer risking their life by crawling through rubble to try and reach survivors inside a collapsed building.
Footage shows the rescuer breathing heavily as he lowers his body into a small hole amongst the rubble – knowing that any slight movement could cause the building to collapse further and kill him.
The rescuer at one point slides onto his stomach and shuffles through the small hole, which he only just manages to fit through, and into a small area that is covered with rubble.
The Briton, wearing a respirator, slides his way across the rubble to reach a man who was lying on the ground. The rescuer can be heard saying: ‘Hello, I’m Malcolm the doctor.’
The man can be heard replying, ‘Is it okay?’ to which the British rescuer says: ‘Yeah we’re okay.’
Serap Donmez is rescued from under rubble of a collapsed building after being trapped there for 176 hours following the devastating earthquake in the Turkish province of Hatay
A son sheds tears of joy after her mother Serap Donmez is rescued from under rubble of a collapsed building 176 hours
A son sheds tears of joy after her mother Serap Donmez is rescued from under rubble of a collapsed building 176 hours
Workers stand on top of a collapsed building as a digger works its way through the debris on February 13 in Hatay, Turkey
An aerial photo shows collapsed buildings in Antakya, Turkey, on February 11
Meanwhile, in the devastated Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, near the epicentre of the quake, excavators dug through mountains of twisted rubble as a rescue team recovered a body from the wreckage.
Rescuers hoping to reach the three survivors in the city – believed to be a mother, daughter and a baby – consisted of a Turkish military team, miners and Spanish firefighters who were first alerted to there being life in the rubble by a search dog, said engineer officer Halil Kaya.
A thermal scan signalled that there were people alive, about five metres within the building, and then a muffled sound was detected, Kaya told the broadcaster.
The miners have excavated around three metres through a neighbouring building that is still standing, putting up support beams as they go.
‘When we said knock on the wall if you can hear us, we heard faint tapping,’ he said.
‘Our colleagues are all here working for 24 hours without sleeping … We will all be here until we get those people out of there.’
In many areas, rescue teams said they lacked sensors and advanced search equipment, leaving them reduced to carefully digging through the rubble with shovels or only their hands.
‘If we had this kind of equipment, we would have saved hundreds of lives, if not more,’ said Alaa Moubarak, head of civil defence in Jableh, northwest Syria.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Reinoso Angulo, a professor at the Institute of Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the likelihood of finding more people alive is ‘very, very small now’.
Rescuers evacuate a 12-year-old Syrian girl, Cudi, from the rubble of a destroyed building in Hatay, on February 12
People sit around a fire near the collapsed buildings on February 13 in Hatay, Turkey
Drone footage shows AFAD tents set up in the stadium of Kahramanmaras following the earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey
Chinese rescuers attend search and rescue operations after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes in Hatay, Turkiye on February 11
Prof Angulo, the lead author of a 2017 study involving deaths inside buildings struck by earthquakes, said the odds of survival for people trapped in wreckage fall dramatically after five days, and is near zero after nine days, although there have been exceptions.
David Alexander, a professor of emergency planning and management at University College London, agreed, saying the window for pulling people alive from the rubble is ‘almost at an end’.
But, he said, the odds were not very good to begin with – many of the buildings were so poorly constructed that they collapsed into very small pieces, leaving very few spaces large enough for people to survive in.
‘If a frame building of some kind goes over, generally speaking we do find open spaces in a heap of rubble where we can tunnel in,’ Prof Alexander said. ‘Looking at some of these photographs from Turkey and from Syria, there just aren’t the spaces.’
Wintry conditions further reduce the window for survival. Temperatures in the region have fallen to minus 6C (21F) overnight.
‘The typical way the body compensates for hypothermia is shivering – and shivering requires a lot of calories,’ said Dr Stephanie Lareau, a professor of emergency medicine at Virginia Tech in the US.
‘So if somebody’s deprived of food for a number of days and exposed to cold temperatures, they’re probably going to succumb to hypothermia more rapidly.’
A week after the quakes hit, many people are still without shelter in the streets.
Some survivors are still waiting in front of collapsed buildings for the bodies of their loved ones to be retrieved.
Many in Turkey blame faulty construction for the vast devastation, and authorities have begun targeting contractors allegedly linked with buildings that collapsed.
At least 131 people are under investigation for their alleged responsibility in the construction of buildings that failed to withstand the quakes, officials said.
Turkey has introduced construction codes that meet earthquake-engineering standards, but experts say the codes are rarely enforced.
In Syria, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said the international community has failed to provide aid.
Visiting the Turkish-Syrian border on Sunday, he said Syrians are ‘looking for international help that hasn’t arrived’.
‘We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria. They rightly feel abandoned,’ he said, adding: ‘My duty and our obligation is to correct this failure as fast as we can.’
The earthquake death toll in Syria’s north-western rebel-held region has reached 2,166, according to rescue group the White Helmets.
The overall death toll in Syria stood at 3,553 on Saturday, although the 1,387 deaths reported for government-held parts of the country had not been updated for days. Turkey’s death toll was 29,605 as of Sunday.
A man walks in the debris of a collapsed building as he awaits news of loved ones on February 13 in Hatay, Turkey
An aerial view of collapsed buildings after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkey
In the Syrian capital, Damascus, the head of the World Health Organisation warned that the pain will ripple forward, calling the disaster an ‘unfolding tragedy that’s affecting millions’.
‘The compounding crises of conflict, Covid, cholera, economic decline, and now the earthquake have taken an unbearable toll,’ Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The United Nations has decried the failure to ship desperately needed aid to war-torn regions of Syria.
A convoy with supplies for northwest Syria arrived via Turkey, but the UN’s relief chief Martin Griffiths said much more was needed for millions whose homes were destroyed.
‘We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived,’ Griffiths said on Twitter.
Assessing damage in southern Turkey on Saturday, when the toll stood at 28,000, Griffiths said he expected the figure to ‘double or more’ as chances of finding survivors fade with every passing day.
Supplies have been slow to arrive in Syria, where years of conflict have ravaged the healthcare system, and parts of the country remain under the control of rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is under Western sanctions.
But a 10-truck UN convoy crossed into northwest Syria via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to an AFP correspondent, carrying shelter kits, plastic sheeting, rope, blankets, mattresses and carpets.
Bab al-Hawa is the only point for international aid to reach people in rebel-held areas of Syria after nearly 12 years of civil war, after other crossings were closed under pressure from China and Russia.
The head of the World Health Organization met Assad in Damascus on Sunday and said the Syrian leader had voiced readiness for more border crossings to help bring aid into the rebel-held northwest.
‘He was open to considering additional cross-border access points for this emergency,’ WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
‘The compounding crises of conflict, Covid, cholera, economic decline and now the earthquake have taken an unbearable toll,’ Tedros said a day after visiting Aleppo.
While Damascus had given the all-clear for cross-line aid convoys to go ahead from government areas, Tedros said the WHO was still waiting for a green light from rebel-held areas before going in.
U.N. Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said in Damascus the United Nations was mobilising funding to support Syria. ‘We’re trying to tell everyone: Put politics aside, this is a time to unite behind a common effort to support the Syrian people,’ he said.
Turkey said on Sunday about 80,000 people were in hospital, and more than 1 million in temporary shelters.
Assad looked forward to further ‘efficient cooperation’ with the UN agency to improve the shortage in supplies, equipment and medicines, his presidency said.
He had also thanked the United Arab Emirates for providing ‘huge relief and humanitarian aid’, with pledges of tens of millions of dollars.
But in Turkey security concerns prompted the suspension of some rescue operations, and dozens of people have been arrested for looting or trying to defraud victims in the aftermath of the quake, according to state media.
An Israeli emergency relief organisation said Sunday it had suspended its earthquake rescue operation in Turkey and returned home because of a ‘significant’ security threat to its staff.
Zehra Kurukafa walks past a destroyed house in the village of Polat, Turkey, on Sunday
After days of grief and anguish, anger in Turkey has been growing over the poor quality of buildings as well as the government’s response to the country’s worst disaster in nearly a century.
A total of 12,141 buildings were officially either destroyed or seriously damaged in Turkey.
Officials and medics said 29,605 people had died in Turkey and 3,581 in Syria from last Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, bringing the confirmed total to 33,186.
In a central district of one of the worst hit cities, Antakya in southern Turkey, business owners emptied their shops on Sunday to prevent merchandise from being stolen by looters.
Residents and aid workers who came from other cities cited worsening security conditions, with widespread accounts of businesses and collapsed homes being robbed.
Amid concerns about hygiene and the spread of infection in the region, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at the weekend that rabies and tetanus vaccine had been sent to the quake zone and that mobile pharmacies had started to operate there.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the government will deal firmly with looters, as he faces questions over his response to the earthquake ahead of an election scheduled for June that is expected to be the toughest of his two decades in power.
The quake is now the sixth most deadly natural disaster this century, behind the 2005 tremor that killed at least 73,000 in Pakistan.
A father and daughter, a toddler and a 10-year-old girl were among other survivors pulled from the ruins of collapsed buildings in Turkey on Sunday, but such scenes are becoming rare as the number of dead climbed relentlessly.
At a funeral near Reyhanli, veiled women wailed and beat their chests as bodies were unloaded from lorries – some in closed wood coffins, others in uncovered coffins, and still others just wrapped in blankets.
Some residents sought to retrieve what they could from the destruction.
In Elbistan, epicentre of an aftershock almost as powerful as Monday’s initial 7.8 magnitude quake, 32-year-old mobile shop owner Mustafa Bahcivan said he had come into town almost daily since then. On Sunday, he sifted through rubble searching for any of his phones that might still be intact and sellable.
‘This used to be one of the busiest streets. Now it’s completely gone,’ he said.
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