Rescue workers have dug deeper into collapsed buildings in southeast Turkey in a bid to find those still trapped following an earthquake, as the death toll has risen above 400 people, with more than 1,000 people injured.
In a remarkable episode on Tuesday that raised hopes that more survivors could yet be found, a two-week-old baby was pulled alive from the rubble, almost two days after being buried inside a collapsed apartment building.
Rescue workers then pulled out the baby’s mother, Semiha Karaduman, and grandmother, Gulzade Karaduman, to cheers and applause.
The baby was in good health, but has been sent to a hospital in Ankara, the capital.
“What kept them alive is a sofa bed, a sofa bed sufficiently robust in construction to have kept the collapsed floor and ceiling apart just enough for those three people to survive more than two days in the rubble,” reported Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught from Ercis, the site of the rescue.
Rescue crews continued to attempt to free dozens of people trapped inside collapsed structures, most of which have been reduced to mounts of broken concrete and twisted steel. At least nine people were rescued on Tuesday, although many more bodies were found.
Workers used heavy machinery, jackhammers, shovels, pick axes and bare hands to comb through the debris.
Our correspondent said there were still many people trapped in the rubble because rescuers could hear their voices. Listening devices were being used to help locate people.
On Tuesday evening, a strong aftershock with a 5.4-magnitude hit the Van region, the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said. The epicentre was Degirmenozu, between Van city and Ercis.
Close to 500 aftershocks have been recorded in the area since Sunday’s earthquake.
The latest major aftershock sparked panic at Van’s prison, where inmates set fire to certain parts of the building while demanding to be let out.
Parts of the jail were on fire on Tuesday evening, and witnesses reported hearing gunfire emanating from within it.
“I’m standing outside the main gates of the jail, and a potentially very serious situation is developing here. As we drove towards the jail it was clear that it was still on fire. We could see a prison guard with a riot shield moving down from one of the watchtowers,” reported Al Jazeera’s McNaught.
Relatives of prisoners were gathered outside the jail.
Death toll rises
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught reports from Ercis, the worst quake-hit area
The office of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said on Tuesday that the official death toll had rised to 432 people.
The Turkish Red Crescent also said it was facing what it called “a race against time” to shelter thousands of people, who spent a second night in near-freezing conditions.
It was criticised for failing to ensure that some of the neediest, particularly in villages, received tents as night temperatures plummeted.
The government has apologised for the slowness in distributing tents as residents waited for aid to reach them in the worst hit areas.
Besir Atalay, the deputy prime minister overseeing relief operations, said: “From today there will be nothing our people lack.”
Emin Kayram, from the worst-hit Ercis, said: “Life has become hell. We are outside, the weather is cold. There are no tents.”
Television images showed desperate men pushing each other roughly to grab tents from the back of a Red Crescent truck.
Apology to victims
“I didn’t think the Red Crescent was successful enough in giving away tents,” Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party, said. “I apologise to our people.”
Questions raised about Turkey building standards after devastating earthquake
On Tuesday, Turkey announced that it would be accepting international aid, including an offer of assistance from Israel.
“Turkey has asked us for caravans for the homeless after the earthquake” in the east of the country, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP. “We accepted immediately and we will quickly see what we can supply.”
A total of 2,200 buildings collapsed as a result of the quake and aftershocks, including a dormitory in Ercis under which many students were believed to be buried.
The Red Crescent said it had distributed up to 13,000 tents, and was preparing temporary shelter for about 40,000 people, although there were no reliable figures for the homeless.
A football pitch in Ercis has been transformed into a relief camp as the stadium served as a make-shift field hospital. About 1,500 units of blood have been sent to the region.
The government said about 2,400 search and rescue teams from 45 cities and more than 200 ambulances were deployed across the disaster-struck area.