Six relatives huddled in a small air pocket, day after day. A desperate teenager grew so thirsty that he drank his own urine. Two frightened sisters were comforted by a pop song as they waited for rescuers to free them.
These earthquake survivors were among more than a dozen people pulled out of the rubble alive Friday after spending over four days trapped in frigid darkness following the disaster that struck Turkey and Syria.
The unlikely rescues, coming so long after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake brought down thousands of buildings, offered fleeting moments of joy amid a catastrophe that has killed nearly 24,000 people, injured at least 80,000 others and left millions homeless.
One rescue worker said that Kilinc had been joking with crew members while still trapped beneath the rubble, trying to boost their morale
In the Mediterranean coastal city of Iskenderun, a crowd chanted “God is great!” as Haci Murat Kilinc and his wife, Raziye, were carried on stretchers to a waiting ambulance.
“You’ve been working so many hours, God bless you!” a relative of the couple told one of their saviors.
One rescue worker said that Kilinc had been joking with crew members while still trapped beneath the rubble, trying to boost their morale.
Two hours earlier in Kahramanmaras, the city closest to the epicenter, rescuers embraced and chanted their thanks to God after pulling a man from his collapsed home.
In Adiyaman, a hard-hit city of more than a quarter-million people, rescuers and onlookers suppressed their joy so as not to frighten 4-year-old Yagiz Komsu as he emerged from the debris, according the HaberTurk television, which broadcast the rescue live.
To distract him, he was given a jelly bean. Teams later rescued his 27-year-old mother, Ayfer Komsu, who had a broken rib.
But the flurry of dramatic rescues could not obscure the devastation spread across a sprawling border region that is home to more than 13.5 million people. Entire neighborhoods of high-rises have been reduced to rubble, and the quake has already killed more people than Japan’s Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, with many more bodies yet to be recovered and counted.
Relatives wept and chanted as rescuers pulled 17-year-old Adnan Muhammed Korkut from a basement in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the quake’s epicenter. He had been trapped for 94 hours, forced to drink his own urine to survive.
“Thank God you arrived,” he said, embracing his mother and others who leaned down to kiss and hug him as he was being loaded into an ambulance.
For one of the rescuers, identified only as Yasemin, Adnan’s survival hit home hard.
“I have a son just like you,” she told him after giving him a warm hug. “I swear to you, I have not slept for four days. … I was trying to get you out.”