Turkish earthquake rescue efforts 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
ERCIS, Turkey - Rescuers pulled a two-week-old baby girl alive from a collapsed apartment block on Tuesday as they battled to find survivors of an earthquake in eastern Turkey that killed more than 400 people and made tens of thousands homeless.
The baby's mother and a grandmother were also brought out alive on stretchers to jubilant cries from onlookers who followed the dramatic rescue under cold, pouring rain.
"It's a miracle!" said Senol Yigit, the uncle of the baby, Azra, whose name means "purity" or "untouched" in Arabic. "I'm so happy. What can I say? We have been waiting for two days. We had lost hope when we first saw the building," he said sobbing.
However, hope of finding more people alive under the rubble faded with every passing hour as more bodies were found.
The death toll from Sunday's 7.2-magnitude quake rose to 459, with 1,352
injured, the Disaster and Emergency Administration said. The final
count was likely to rise further as many people were still missing and
2,262 buildings had collapsed.
Thousands prepared to spend a third night in freezing temperatures in
crowded tents or huddled around fires across a quake-prone region in Van
province, near the Iranian border.
With the government facing criticism over shortages of tents and other
relief items, Turkey requested prefabricated housing and tents from more
than 30 countries, including Israel, a Foreign Ministry official told
Many victims accused the central government of poor organisation and of
being slow in delivering aid to a region inhabited mostly by minority
Kurds and home to a separatist insurgency against the Turkish state.
Fighting broke out among desperate victims to grab tents from
overwhelmed aid workers.
Spelling more trouble for authorities, gunshots were heard as prisoners
set fire to a jail and fought with guards in Van, two days after a
jailbreak in which 200 were reported to have escaped in the chaos after
The ruling AK Party has apologised for distribution problems. Urgency to
offer shelters was heightened by worsening weather, with the first
winter snow less than a month away.Erdogan face Kurdish dissatisfaction
Officials said 12,000 more tents would reach Van on Tuesday
for the neediest, particularly in villages.
"Life has become hell. We are outside, the weather is cold.
There are no tents," said Emin Kayram, 53, sitting by a campfire
in Ercis after spending the night with his family of eight in a
van parked nearby. His nephew was trapped in the debris of a
building behind him, where rescue workers dug through the night.
"He is 18, a student. He is still stuck in there. This is
the third day but you can't lose hope. We have to wait here."
How fast Ankara manages to deliver aid and long-term relief
to the survivors might have political consequences in a region
plagued by poverty and the Kurdish insurgency, analysts said.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who won a third consecutive
term with a strong majority in a June election, has promised to
push reforms in parliament and rewrite the constitution to
address long-time Kurdish grievances in an effort to end
violence. Erdogan travelled to the region on Sunday, and
President Abdullah Gul has also announced plans to visit.
"If we want to win the hearts of our brothers of Kurdish
origin, we should act now. We should beat the outlawed Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) with this approach, which is more effective
than arms," leading analyst Mehmet Ali Birand wrote.
Fighting broke out among a crowd of around 200-300 people
after a truck arrived in Van city and started handing out tents
next to a cemetery. Women were hit and kicked as people tried to
force their way through to get access to the tents, while police
tried in vain to establish order.
"There is absolutely no coordination, you have to step on
people to get a tent," said jobless Suleyman Akbulut, 18.
"The prime minister runs for help when it's
Palestine or Somalia, sends ships to Palestine, almost goes to
war with Israel for the sake of Palestinians, but he doesn't
move a muscle when it comes to his own people," said Emrullah, a
young man of about 18.