Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

2-week old baby rescued after Turkish quake

ERCIS, Turkey - A 2-week-old baby girl, her mother and grandmother were pulled alive from the rubble of an apartment building in a dramatic rescue Tuesday, 48 hours after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake toppled some 2,000 buildings in eastern Turkey.

Television footage showed a rescuer, Kadir Direk, in an orange jumpsuit squeezing into the hulk of crushed concrete and metal to free the baby. The infant, named Azra Karaduman, was wrapped in a blanket and handed over to a medic amid a scrum of media and applauding emergency workers.

Close to 500 aftershocks have rattled the area since Sunday, according to Turkey's Kandilli seismology center, and a moderately strong one on Tuesday, measuring 5.4, sent residents rushing into the streets.

Authorities said the death toll had jumped to 432 as rescuers in Ercis and the provincial capital, Van, raced against time to free dozens of people trapped inside mounds of concrete, twisted steel and construction debris. At least nine people were rescued on Tuesday, although many more bodies were discovered.

Authorities have warned survivors in the mainly Kurdish area not to enter damaged buildings and thousands spent a second night outdoors in cars or tents in near-freezing conditions, afraid to return to their homes. Some 1,300 people were injured.

There was still no power or running water and aid distribution was disrupted as desperate people stopped trucks even before they entered Ercis. Aid workers said they were able to find emergency housing for only about half the people who needed it.

The baby's mother, Semiha, and grandmother, Gulsaadet, were huddled together, with the baby clinging to her mother's shoulder when rescuers found them, Direk, the emergency worker, told The Associated Press. There was a bakery at the ground floor of the building, which may have kept them warm, he said.

The baby was in good health but was flown to a hospital in Ankara, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Hours after she was freed, the two others were pulled from the large, half-flattened building and rushed to ambulances as onlookers clapped and cheered. The mother had been semiconscious, but woke up when rescuers arrived, Direk said.

"Bringing them out is such happiness. I wouldn't be happier if they gave me tons of money," said rescuer Oytun Gulpinar.

Firefighters and rescuers ordered silence while they listened for noise from other possible survivors in the large 5-story apartment block, parts of which were being supported by a crane. Workers could not find the baby's father and there were no other signs of life in the shattered building, said Direk.

Direk was chosen to rescue the three because he was thinnest in the group and was able to squeeze through the narrow corridor that they had drilled, according to NTV television.

He chatted with the woman while trying to get her out, at one point jokingly asking her to name the baby after his own son, Cagan.

"She replied that the baby was a girl, and that she wanted her named Azra," said Direk, who traveled from the western city of Izmir.

The Hurriyet newspaper reported the family live in Sivas, central Turkey, but were visiting the girl's grandmother and grandfather.

Nine-year-old Oguz Isler was rescued along with his sister and cousin, but on Tuesday he was waiting at the foot of the same pile of debris that was his aunt's apartment block for news of his parents and of other relatives who remain buried inside.

Turkish rescue workers in bright orange overalls and Azerbaijani military rescuers in camouflage uniforms searched through the debris, using excavators, picks and shovels to look for Oguz's mother and father and other relatives still inside.

Dogs sniffed for possible survivors in gaps that opened up as their work progressed.

"They should send more people," Oguz said as he and other family members watched the rescuers. An elder cousin comforted him.

Mehmet Ali Hekimoglu, a medic, said the dogs indicated that there were three or four people inside the building, but it was not known if they were alive.

The boy, his sister and a cousin were trapped in the building's third-floor stairway as they tried to escape when the quake hit. A steel door fell over him.

"I fell on the ground face down. When I tried to move my head, it hit the door," he said. "I tried to get out and was able to open a gap with my fists in the wall but could not move my body further. The wall crumbled quickly when I hit it."

"We started shouting: 'Help! We're here,'" he said. "They found us a few hours later, they took me out about 8 1/2 hours later. ... I was OK but felt very bad, lonely. ... I still have a headache, but the doctor said I was fine."

"They took me out last because I was in good shape and the door was protecting me. I was hearing stones falling on it," the boy said.

Hundreds of rescue teams from throughout Turkey rushed to the area, while Turkish Red Crescent dispatched tents and blankets and set up soup kitchens. Some residents complained that they could not get tents and stoves for their families. The Milliyet newspaper on Tuesday reported fistfights in front of some aid trucks.

"The aid is coming in but we're not getting it. We need more police, soldiers," resident Baran Gungor said.

Tents were erected in two stadiums but many preferred to stay close to their homes for news of the missing or to keep watch on damaged buildings. Some left Van to seek shelter with friends or relatives elsewhere.

Turkish Red Crescent director Omer Tasli admitted shortfalls in sheltering all the survivors.

"We couldn't cover ... all the families," he said. "Now just maybe 50 percent of them (are) under a tent."

The government said it would set up temporary homes and would begin planning to rebuild destroyed areas with better housing. Turks across the country began sending blankets and warm clothing.

The earthquake's epicenter was the village of Tabanli but damage there was minimal; No deaths were reported and its mud-brick homes were relatively unharmed.

Turkey lies in one of the world's most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

Istanbul, the country's largest city with more than 12 million people, lies in northwestern Turkey near a major fault line, and experts say tens of thousands could be killed if a major quake struck there.

News Photos and Videos