After the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, rescuers are racing against time to find and save as many people as possible trapped under the rubble. In the face of horror due to the number of victims and destruction, people are sometimes still cheered by a successful action.
Rescue workers have called for silence outside a collapsed apartment building in Iskenderun, southern Turkey, after hearing signs of life under the rubble.
Family members, friends and neighbors of people trapped in the building stopped talking, heavy machinery was turned off. After a few minutes of silence, the paramedics called an ambulance, as they confirmed that they had found a woman alive. The crowd erupted in cheers and cries.
People said it was the first time a survivor had been found inside the six-story building since Monday’s earthquake. Shortly before that, a body was pulled from the rubble, the BBC reports.
The rescue of the survivor, believed to be a woman between 50 and 60 years old, has given hope to several people that their loved ones will still be found alive.
The atmosphere, however, soon returned to its previous state. Namely, the rescuers quickly continued with the slow work of searching among the ruins, which is mostly carried out by hand.
Local doctor Mehmet Riyat said the medical staff had their hands full since Monday. “We saw a lot of broken bones, broken necks, head injuries, and a lot of deaths,” he said. He added that as doctors they have to do their job, and after that they think about their families.
Iskenderun was badly damaged in the earthquake. Many buildings are destroyed, including the hospital.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responding to criticism of the slowness of aid delivery and rescue and the lack of earthquake preparations, said that “it is impossible to prepare for such a great disaster”.
The situation in Syria is said to be worse than during the war
Doctors in Syria are also overburdened. Ahmed Al Masria surgeon at Al Shifa Hospital in Afrin, a rebel-held city in the country’s northwest, said more than 200 patients were treated in the day after the earthquake, the BBC reported.
He also helped seven-year-old Muhammad, who was rescued from the ruins of his destroyed home. Rescuers found him next to his father’s body, his mother and his brothers also died.
Among other things, Masri examined an 18-month-old boy. He found that he was all right, and then his father came running to him, tearfully saying that the boy was the only survivor of his family. All the other members were lying dead in the corridor of the hospital.
The doctor said the scale of the disaster stunned hospital staff. “I had no idea that an earthquake could cause so much damage, so many people could be injured,” he said.
In 2013, he was working at a field hospital when rockets containing sarin gas hit several suburbs of the rebel-held city of Damascus. Several hundred people died, thousands were injured. They were able to organize quickly then, but the situation now is much worse, he said.
“It’s the worst thing to be a doctor in these circumstances. When you can’t save a patient or relieve someone’s pain. It’s the worst thing you can feel,” he said.
While Masri was helping others, he did not know what happened to his family as there was no electricity or internet access. His parents and brothers live just a few hundred meters from the hospital, but his wife and children live across the border in Gaziantep, Turkey, a city near the epicenter of the earthquake, which was also badly damaged.
“We looked at the patients with two eyes, one to assess their injuries and the other to see if it might be a family member,” said Masri, who then learned that his family was safe.