A 12-year-old boy was pulled out alive from the rubble of Turkey’s devastating earthquake on Friday after being trapped under twisted lumps of masonry for more than 108 hours.
While the death toll from last Sunday’s tragedy rose to 570, the rescue of Ferhat Tokay in the early hours of the morning gave fresh hope to rescue crews who have been working round the clock in sub-zero temperatures.
The prospects of finding more survivors had been fading fast but 18-year-old Imdat Padak was also rescued in Ercis on Thursday evening after an ordeal lasting over 100 hours.
Television footage showed how one rescue worker had to place his hands over Ferhat’s eyes as he was brought to the surface to protect him from the floodlights used by the emergency teams.
Both of the young survivors were immediately sent to a field hospital in the town of Ercis and they were later airlifted by helicopter to nearby hospitals for further treatment, media reports said.
According to the latest update from the government’s emergency service 187 people have been pulled out alive from the debris.
As well as raising the official death toll to 570, the unit said that a total of 2,500 had been injured by the 7.2 magnitude quake which ripped through towns and villages in eastern Van province. The worst damage was in Ercis where a total of 80 buildings collapsed, according to officials.
There were fresh snowfalls in Van province on Friday, ensuring more misery for survivors who have forced to camp out in tents for fear that buildings that are still standing could collapse in the event of aftershocks.
There have been widespread complaints about the speed of the rescue effort in the mainly Kurdish area.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted to failings in the immediate aftermath but has since sent a quarter of his cabinet to oversee operations in Van and dropped his earlier opposition to help from abroad.
The countries which have flown in aid include Israel and Armenia, with whom Turkey has had strained diplomatic ties.
Saudi Arabia pledged to donate $50 million in aid to the quake victims, the kingdom’s official SPA news agency reported.
The misery of survivors has been compounded both by the snow and rain which has turned some of the tented camps into mudbaths.
Authorities have begun to clean the debris in Van province, but some of the rubble from Ercis has been just dumped on the shores of Lake Van, the country’s largest lake.
“The local governor’s office (in Ercis) first said they would tell us where to throw the rubble, but they could not decide on a place and so they told us to leave it somewhere near the lake. Here we are,” the daily Radikal quoted one truck driver as saying.
Some 250 trucks have been employed to clear away the rubble and have been making up to 15 trips a day to the shores of the lake, Radikal said.
An official from State Waterworks Directorate, confirmed to AFP that some debris had been discharged near the lake on Thursday, but as of Friday trucks were now dumping their loads at a garbage depot 10 kilometres out of Ercis.