70-year-old pulled out alive as Turkey quake death toll hits 71

Race against time to find survivors after the deadly 7.0 earthquake in the Aegean Sea knocked down 20 buildings and caused hundreds of injuries.

Members of rescue services search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir [Darko Bandic/AP Photo]

Rescue workers have extricated a 70-year-old man from a collapsed building in western Turkey after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey and Greece on Friday, killing at least 71 people and injuring more than 900.

Ahmet Citim, 70, was rescued from the rubble shortly after midnight on Sunday and is doing well at hospital, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

Koca tweeted the man said: “I never lost my hope.”

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.

Turkey’s disaster and emergency agency AFAD on Sunday raised the death toll in Izmir province to 69.

Two teenagers were killed Friday on the Greek island of Samos and at least 19 others were injured.

AFAD said 949 people were injured in Turkey, with more than 220 still receiving treatment on Sunday.

There have been 850 aftershocks, 40 registering magnitudes stronger than 4.0, AFAD said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Izmir to monitor rescue efforts.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Izmir, said 20 improperly constructed buildings had collapsed completely.

“Rescue workers are trying to hear a signal of life of survivors under the debris. They say about 40 people were stuck under the rubble but some have been rescued and others died. The longer time passes, the less chance there is of finding victims,” she said.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said 26 badly damaged buildings would be demolished. “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 under way in Turkish cities but it is not happening fast enough.

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

The Friday earthquake, which the US Geological Survey said had a magnitude of 7.0, was centred in the Aegean northeast of Samos island. AFAD said it hit at a depth of some 16km (10 miles).

A small tsunami was triggered in the Seferihisar district of Izmir, drowning one elderly woman, and on the Greek island.

People walk past a damaged building after the earthquake in the Aegean port city of Izmir [Kemal Aslan/Reuters]

The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul, as well as the Greek capital, Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.

Search-and-rescue teams continued work in nine buildings in Izmir as dawn broke on the third day.

On Saturday, a mother and three of her children were pulled to safety after being trapped for almost 18 hours under a building in Izmir that had been flattened in the earthquake.

One of the children succumbed to his injuries later in hospital, Koca told reporters.

People watch rescue operations after the quake struck the coastal province of Izmir [Kemal Aslan/Reuters]

Rescuers were continuing efforts to free the woman’s fourth child.

Turkey is crossed 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.

The quake occurred as Turkey was already struggling with an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic. So far, more than 10,000 people infected with the virus have died in Turkey.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies