Videos: Rescuers Pull Off Miracles in Turkey/Syria Earthquake Disaster

HATAY, TURKIYE - FEBRUARY 9: A woman is rescued from the rubble 84 hours after a building
Ugur Yildirim/ dia images via Getty

Rescue teams in Syria and Turkey continue to search for survivors on Thursday after a set of two earthquakes over magnitude seven devastated cities in both countries on Monday – and, on some rare occasions, have managed to pull newborns, seniors, and entire families from the wreckage.

The region experienced a 7.7-magnitude earthquake in the early morning hours of Monday, followed by a 7.6-magnitude aftershock hours later that trapped first responders in the rubble of falling buildings. The region affected is believed to be home to about 13 million people and largely contains Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan.

The eastern Turkish cities of Diyarbakir and Gaziantep, for example, are both home to about 2 million people each.

As of Thursday morning, the combined confirmed death tolls of the two earthquakes surpassed 19,000 – over 16,000 in Turkey and the rest in Syria. The Syrian government, under dictator Bashar al-Assad, does not have control of much of the west of the country, which lies in the hands of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), so Syrian government casualty estimates are likely to be severe undercounts.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has focused on reporting from areas where Assad has established full control, such as the seaside region of Lattakia.

In Turkey, the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced an extension of the initial state of emergency declared following the earthquakes to three months. The state of emergency was in place nationwide, Erdogan explained, as ten Turkish provinces experienced significant destruction. The government has reportedly had to evacuate 28,000 people in areas affected by the earthquake as the structural integrity of the remaining buildings is in jeopardy.

Turkey, already home to millions of refugees from the Syrian Civil War, is expected to experience a surge in homelessness as a result of the earthquakes.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are taking part in relief efforts. All kinds of teams and vehicles from across the country have been dispatched to the region,” Erdogan assured his citizens.

In addition to rescue and recovery efforts, Erdogan warned that the government would be searching for individuals seeking to price gouge on basic foods or scam earthquake victims.

While the death toll continues to climb rapidly, dramatic stories of successful rescue efforts have also begun to surface.

On Tuesday, Turkish authorities confirmed the discovery of twin toddlers, one and a half years old, alive in the rubble of the city of Gaziantep. Both children, Ahmet Erbay and Amine Elcin, were pulled out of the rubble alive; the children and both parents were hospitalized for injuries at press time but expected to survive.

Turkish Police Service via Storyful

The next day, the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry revealed the rescue of a family of three who survived 58 hours under rubble in Nurdagi. The family appeared to be entirely trapped under a pile of concrete and kept contact with authorities as they pulled out debris and ultimately got the family out.

General Directorate of Foresty via Storyful

A similar family rescue occurred in Syria, where the White Helmets aid group published video of a crowd cheering as, one by one, a family of five was pulled out of the destruction if the village of Bisnia, near the city of Idlib. That rescue also occurred on Tuesday, meaning the family spent over a day under the rubble. The family – a mother, father, and a young boy and girl – were reportedly in “good health” relative to the situation they had just endured.

Syria Civil Defence via Storyful

Syrian rescuers elsewhere, in the Kurdish city of Afrin, made the discovery of a newborn girl on Monday under a pile of what was formerly a building. The girl was still attached to her placenta via umbilical cord when found; her mother appeared to have given birth under the rubble and died shortly thereafter. The girl also reportedly lost her father in the earthquake.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet also listed several rescues occurring on Wednesday and Thursday, meaning those saved were trapped for as long as three days.

“Feyzullah Polat, 35, and his 9-year-old daughter Zeynep, who were found by the teams 81 hours after being trapped under the rubble of an apartment in Kahramanmaraş, were pulled out alive,” Hurriyet detailed. “Two more children, Mehmet Naim and Melih, were rescued from the rubble 78 hours after the tremor in Pazarcık district. Their mother was also pulled out of the rubble alive after them.”

Rescuers are working against the clock both due to the limited chance of survival for those who remain under debris for days and the fact that more earthquakes may follow, potentially killing first responders as well as those still trapped.

Three people are rescued from under the rubble after 84 hours of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkiye including in Hatay, Turkiye on February 09, 2023. (Eren Bozkurt/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The head of Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory, which monitors seismic activity in the region, said on Thursday that he expected “months” of aftershocks following the initial two earthquakes.

“The magnitude, intensity and all parameters of the earthquake will become clear over time, but the moment magnitude of the earthquake, that is, the magnitude determined by combining all the data, is 7.7 though it was calculated as 7.4 in the initial determinations,” Haluk Özener reportedly said this week, according to Hurriyet.

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