Miracle as 3-year-old girl survives quake
A 3-year-old girl was pulled on Tuesday from rubble 91 hours after a powerful earthquake hit western Turkey, offering a ray of hope for grieving families as the death toll soared past 100.
Rescuers and families have been riding waves of emotion, from profound grief to elated relief, depending on whether bodies or survivors were extracted from the broken slabs of apartment buildings leveled by Friday’s powerful 7.0-magnitude quake.
Most of the damage struck in and around Turkey’s Aegean resort city of Izmir, where the death toll reached 105 on Tuesday.
None of the Turkish coastal towns were hit harder than Bayrakli, a residential district dotted with seven- and eight-floor apartment buildings, dozens of which were either damaged or completely destroyed.
Rescuers, exhausted but determined on their fourth day of round-the-clock work, were zeroing in on four buildings yesterday, supported by drones surveying the scene.
They broke out in cheers, applause and shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” the moment they realized they had rescued a little girl called Ayda Gezgin.
“We have witnessed a miracle in the 91st hour,” Izmir mayor Tunc Soyer tweeted.
“The miracle’s name is Ayda,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted moments later.
“With your smiling eyes, you have inspired new hope for us. Thank God. Get well soon, my lovely little one,” the Turkish leader wrote.
In the initial confusion, Turkish officials said the girl was 4 years old, before realizing she was only 3. She called for her mother as she was taken to a waiting ambulance in a golden foil blanket.
Anxious relatives and survivors, many of them spending cold night in tents a safe distance away from the ruins, broke into rapturous applause, some hugging each other and others crying.
“I asked her: Are you okay? I was curious to see if she was alright. She asked for ayran,” said rescue worker Ahmet Celik, referring to the salty yoghurt drink.
“I told her the ayran would come later,” he said, laughing. “She loves ayran.”
Rescuers said they realized someone was still alive at the site on Monday night, before painstakingly working to reach her.
“It was a child’s, a female voice,” said fellow rescue worker Ibrahim Topal.
“My friend Ahmet saw the hand, and when we opened (the space) a bit more, Ayda’s face.”
Topal said the girl was discovered in the kitchen, in a small space created by the oven and other white goods.
“From the moment we heard her sound, it didn’t matter how tired we were. It gave us energy again,” he said.
“We were so happy.”
The rescue came a day after a 4-year-old and a 14-year-old were found alive in the same district, encouraging rescuers despite persistent fears of aftershocks.
Turkey has reported nearly 1,500 tremors after the quake, including 44 above 4 in magnitude.
Friday’s quake was the deadliest in Turkey this year, after over 40 people were killed in the eastern provinces of Elazig and Malatya in January.