Izmir, Turkey – Frantic search and rescue efforts continued in the western Turkish city of Izmir on Monday, with the rescue of a baby girl from theoffering a glimmer of hope. But the toll was devastating; the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Friday morning officially killed at least 91 people on Monday. Nearly 900 others were injured and many people are still missing.
On Monday, rescuers were still racing to reach survivors trapped under the rubble of five different buildings in Izmir. Dozens of people remain missing, local relief agencies said, and family members gathered around the collapsed buildings hoping for any sign of loved ones.
Rescuers managed to get a 3-year-old girl out of a leveled building, rescuing her after being trapped under the rubble for 65 hours. Elif Perincek found herself stranded with her three siblings and mother in their family home when the earthquake struck. Her mother and twin sisters were rescued earlier, but her 7-year-old brother died.
A video broadcast on Turkish TV showed rescuers and TV reporters shedding tears of joy when the little girl was pulled from the crumbling concrete on Monday. But the agonizing wait continued for many other families.
Yesim Emir, a 29-year-old dentist, is believed to be trapped under a collapsed 8-story building. Fighting back tears, her mother Sibel Suruc told CBS News on Saturday that the family was clinging to hope, “praying that it would come out alive.”
At least 106 people had been pulled out of the rubble alive on Monday, but there was still no sign of an Emir.
The country’s Disaster Relief and Relief Agency said more than 5,700 staff from national and local government agencies and civil society groups have joined the rescue efforts. Rescuers were taking significant risks, slipping through cracks and scaling crushed concrete and steel from demolished buildings to reach survivors.
Burak Galip Akkurt was among them. He said survivors of past disasters were found alive even after five days buried under debris.
“You never lose hope. It’s for the team, but also for those who are waiting outside,” he said.
There were lucky breakouts when the earthquake hit as well. Zeki Soysal watched as the building where he had a store partially collapsed before his eyes. He said he didn’t care that he lost his business and was “just grateful to be alive”.
More than 5,000 people were trapped in tents as at least 58 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. Many residents were simply too scared to return home amid strong aftershocks. More than 1,000 aftershocks were recorded Monday after the initial tremor on Friday.
Schools in the city were to remain closed all week.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to “heal the wounds” of the disaster before winter arrives.
Emergency housing in the form of a sea container city was being built to accommodate at least 1,000 people.
The epicenter of the earthquake was in the Aegean Sea, about 10 miles from the Turkish coast. The most serious damage occurred in Izmir, but two teenagers from the Greek island of Samos were also killed.
Turkey is located on active fault lines and has experienced major earthquakes in the past. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed more than 17,000 people in 1999.
Friday’s earthquake struck as Turkey was already struggling to cope with a growing number of COVID-19 cases. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said he understands the difficulty of practicing social distancing in overcrowded tents and other temporary relief centers, but still warned of the threat of the coronavirus.
“We urge all of our citizens to continue taking precautions against the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “We cannot give in to the pandemic while we face the consequences of the earthquake. “