Miracle baby emerges from Turkish quake rubble

October 25, 2011

Some 48 hours after a devastating earthquake, a miracle emerged from a narrow gap in the rubble of a Turkish apartment building: a 2-week-old girl, half-naked but still breathing.

Stoic rescue workers erupted in cheers and applause at her arrival, and later for her mother’s and grandmother’s rescues — uplifting developments on an otherwise grim day.

The bad news kept coming Tuesday: The death toll from Sunday’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake climbed to at least 459, desperate survivors fought over aid and blocked aid shipments, and a powerful aftershock ignited widespread panic and a prison riot in the provincial city of Van.

With thousands of quake survivors facing a third night in the open in near-freezing temperatures, Turkey set aside its national pride and said it would accept international aid offers, even from Israel, with which it has had strained relations lately.

The dramatic operation in Ercis to save three generations of one family was all the more remarkable because the infant, Azra Karaduman, was later declared healthy after being flown to a hospital in Ankara, the capital.

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

Television footage showed rescuer Kadir Direk, in an orange jumpsuit, wriggling into a pile of broken concrete and warped metal — what was left of a five-story apartment building — and then wriggling out with tiny Azra, clad only in a T-shirt.

“Praise be!” someone shouted as the aid team cleared a path to a waiting ambulance.

In a separate rescue effort, 10-year-old Serhat Gur was pulled from the rubble of another building after being trapped for 54 hours, but he died later at a hospital, state-run TRT television reported.

The moments of jubilation were tempered by many more discoveries of bodies in the worst-hit town of Ercis and in other communities in eastern Turkey devastated by Sunday’s earthquake.

More than 500 aftershocks have since rattled the area, according to Turkey’s Kandilli seismology center. A strong one on Tuesday sent residents rushing into the streets in panic and sparked the riot by prisoners in Van, 55 miles south of Ercis.

At least 1,352 people were injured in the quake, TRT television said late Tuesday. At least nine people were rescued Tuesday.

The rescued infant’s mother, Semiha, and grandmother, Gulsaadet, were huddled together, the baby clinging to her mother’s shoulder, when rescuers found them, Direk said. Hours after the child was freed, the two women were pulled from the large, half-flattened building.

Workers could not find the baby’s father, Direk said.

— Associated Press

“Bringing them out is such happiness.
I wouldn’t be happier if they gave me tons of money.”

Oytun Gulpinar, who helped rescue three members of one family in Ercis, Turkey

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