‘Miracle’ rescues: Saved after 100 hours under rubble in Turkey

As the death toll tops 21,000, rescuers continue to work around the clock, hoping to pull more survivors from the debris.

A man being rescued in Turkey
Turkish rescue workers carry Eyup Ak, 60, to an ambulance after pulling him out alive from a collapsed building 104 hours after the earthquake, in Adiyaman, on Friday, February 10, 2023 [Emrah Gurel/AP]

At 4.17am local time on Monday, the first in a series of earthquakes and aftershocks struck cities in Turkey and Syria, causing widespread devastation and the deaths of thousands.

More than 100 hours later, rescuers continue to work around the clock, hoping to pull more survivors from the debris.

In Kahramanmaras, search and rescue teams are trudging along mountains of debris, as major parts of the city centre – including residential buildings, offices, banks and markets – turned into rubble in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes.

Dozens of local organisations and a steady stream of volunteers are aiding the search, rescue and relief operations. Given the enormity of the task, international teams have arrived to help find survivors.

As the death toll reached more than 21,500 on Friday – amid freezing temperatures and mountains of ruin – hopes of finding many more people alive are dwindling.

Yet, surrounded by destruction, stories of resilience and survival have emerged; of lives miraculously saved even after days trapped beneath the rubble.

Here are the stories of some of those who survived:

110 hours: “Another body has been pulled out from under the rubble and he was alive … 110 hours later,” said Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, reporting from a rescue site in Kahramanmaras on Friday. “An ambulance now took him to the hospital. And there is another [man] now, they are digging for him.” Our correspondent said rescuers were not yet aware whether the second man was alive, “but the hope here at this moment is very high that a second person – maybe minutes later – could be pulled out from under the rubble, and that he is also alive, 110 hours later”. Just a few hours before, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl was also pulled out of the ruins of the same rescue site alive.

104 hours: Zeynep Kahraman, 40, was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in the town of Kirikhan on Friday, 104 hours after she was buried alive by the earthquake. German emergency workers lifted her onto a stretcher and into an ambulance. “Now I believe in miracles,” Steven Bayer, the leader of the international search and rescue team said at the site. “You can see the people crying and hugging each other. It’s such a huge relief that this woman under such conditions came out so fit. It’s an absolute miracle.”

In Adiyaman province, southern Turkey, Eyup Ak, 60, was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building on Friday, also 104 hours after being trapped by the quake. Ak was carried on a stretcher to receive medical attention following his rescue.

103 hours: Murat Vural, 66, was rescued in the province of Gaziantep, Islahiye district, 103 hours after the first earthquake had struck. Vural was carried out of the debris after 10 hours of work by members of Turkey’s National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) and police.

In Kahramanmaras, a 15-year-old Syrian girl was rescued by Azerbaijani teams after 103 hours.

In Hatay, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble, also 103 hours since the initial quake.

102 hours: In the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaras province, UMKE and police teams saved the life of 33-year-old Mustafa Sahin Sami, 102 hours after the first earthquake. The teams worked for 12 hours to rescue him from the rubble of a seven-storey building.

101 hours: Rescue workers in Iskenderun, Turkey said six people were pulled from a collapsed building on Friday morning after spending 101 hours beneath the rubble. The six people, all relatives, survived by huddling together in a small pocket left within the collapsed structure, according to Murat Baygul, a search and rescue worker.

In Hatay province, a miner crew from Zonguldak province saved a mother, Ihlas Ayaz, and her son, 101 hours after the first earthquake struck.

In Kahramanmaras province, two sisters aged 15 and 13 were pulled from the rubble on Friday. The 15-year-old was trapped for 99 hours, her younger sister for 101 hours; both were given medical attention.

100 hours: Naim Bayasli, 32, was rescued by an Uzbek rescue team from under the rubble of a collapsed building in Hatay province after he was trapped for 100 hours.

96 hours: A family, including a one-and-a-half-year-old girl, was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building on Friday. The family members included the baby’s mother, father, brother and uncle. They were saved in Hatay’s Antakya district after being trapped for 96 hours.

Rescue teams in Kahramanmaras pulled a young Syrian woman, Fatma Karus, 26, alive from the rubble on Friday, 96 hours after the earthquake.

94 hours: Before dawn on Friday, rescuers in Gaziantep pulled a 17-year-old youth from the basement where had been trapped for 94 hours. “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. A crowd of friends and relatives chanted his name, clapping and crying tears of joy as he was carried out. The teenager said he had been forced to drink his own urine to slake his thirst.“I was able to survive that way. A rescue worker, identified only as Yasemin, told him: “I have a son just like you … I swear to you, I have not slept for four days. I swear I did not sleep; I was trying to get you out.”

90 hours: A 10-day-old infant was found alive with his mother in Hatay after 90 hours trapped. A five-year-old girl and her father were pulled out of the rubble also at the 90th hour.

89 hours: In Kahramanmaras, a seven-year-old boy and his 32-year-old father Ozan Ramazan Guclu were found alive after 89 hours.

88 hours: In Adıyaman, rescue teams were able to save two siblings aged seven and 14 from the rubble of a six-storey building after 88 hours.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies