The tiny frame of a four-year-old girl was pulled from the dusty debris of her collapsed house in Izmir, Turkey, 91 hours after the city was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
The celebration was muffled as the wrapped child was lifted into an ambulance surrounded by exhausted rescue workers working around the clock since the quake struck on Friday afternoon. Ayda Gezgin blinked into the sky and trembled as her body was placed on a child-sized stretcher almost four days after her apartment building was razed to the ground when the devastating earthquake shook the city, killing more than 100 people.
Local Mayor Tunc Soyer tweeted about the rescue and said, “We experienced a miracle at the 91st hour. Rescue teams pulled four-year-old Ayda out alive. Together with the great pain we experienced, we also have this joy”.
A doctor said she had no signs of internal bleeding and her vital signs were fine, the Istanbul newspaper Milliyet reported. Rescuer Nusret Aksoy told reporters that he heard a child scream before he found Ayda hiding next to a dishwasher. She waved to him, told him her name and said she was fine, he said.
Her rescue came just one day after a three-year-old girl, Elif Perincek, and a 14-year-old girl, Idil Sirin, were taken alive from the worst-affected Turkish town of Bayrakli in Izmir. An impressive picture showed Elif’s tiny hand clinging to her paramedic’s thumb when she was lifted free on Monday.
Her rescue was a mixture of celebration and grief – both lost a sibling each in the catastrophe that occurred in the Aegean Sea and was felt as far as Istanbul, about 200 miles north of Izmir, causing a mini tsunami that flooded a port on the Greek island of Samos.
Ayda was brought to safety when the death toll of the 7.0 magnitude quake reached 105, making it the deadliest quake in Turkey this year. Approximately 1,000 people were injured, the country’s civil protection agency, AFAD, reported. Rescue workers in the province of Izmir are still searching five buildings for an unknown number of missing persons – the rescue of the girls is a small glimmer of hope for the people who are tired and inconsolable by the enormous loss of lives so far.
More than 3,500 tents and 13,000 beds are being used for temporary shelter nationwide, where the relief efforts have attracted nearly 8,000 rescuers and 25 sniffer dogs, the agency said. Turkey has reported over 1,500 aftershocks after the earthquake, including 44 that were more than four times as strong. Thousands of residents have been forced to spend four nights in tents in Izmir since the disaster.
Turkey is crossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In January, the eastern provinces of Elazig and Malatya were hit by another disaster, killing more than 40 people. A 2011 quake in the eastern city of Van killed more than 500 people, while two strong quakes in the northwest of the country in 1999 killed 18,000 people.
Regulations have been tightened to reinforce or demolish buildings that were not built to withstand tremors, but some say this is not happening fast enough.