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Child pulled alive from rubble after 296 hours dies

Updated: 2023-02-20 08:11
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A survivor pulled alive 296 hours following the earthquakes is put into a helicopter before being taken to a hospital in Antakya district of Hatay, Turkiye, on Saturday. ANADOLU AGENCY/SERGEN SEZGIN

ANKARA/KAHRAMANMARAS, Turkiye — Rescuers pulled out a couple and their child from rubble early on Saturday, 12 days after the earthquakes that have claimed more than 40,000 lives in Turkiye and more than 5,800 in Syria. However, the child, 12, died later, the semiofficial Anadolu Agency reported.

The three had spent 296 hours under the rubble of an apartment block in Antakya, southern Turkiye, before being rescued. The man and woman were taken to the hospital, but their child died despite on-scene intervention.

The bodies of two other quake victims were also recovered during the international rescue mission, the report said, citing Rysbek Coldoshbayev, captain of the search and rescue team of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Kyrgyzstan.

"We heard shouts when we were digging today an hour ago," Atay Osmanov, a member of the rescue team, told Reuters. "When we find people who are alive we are always happy."

Workers asked for complete silence and for everyone to crouch or sit as the teams climbed to the top of the rubble of the building where the family was found to listen for any more sounds using an electronic detector.

As rescue efforts continued, one worker yelled into the rubble: "Take a deep breath if you can hear my voice."

Though survivors were still being dug out of the rubble in Turkiye, for many grieving families their only hope is that the remains of their loved ones will be found so that they can mourn at their grave site.

"Would you pray to find a dead body?" said Akin Bozkurt, a bulldozer operator, as his machine clawed at the rubble of a building in the town of Kahramanmaras. "We do... to deliver the body to the family.

"You recover a body from under tons of rubble. Families are waiting with hope. They want to have a burial ceremony. They want a grave."

Only a handful of people were pulled out alive from the rubble in the past few days, and the Turkish authorities have said they will complete the rescue operations soon and focus on relief work.

More than 46,000 people have been killed after a magnitude-7.8 quake and others struck Turkiye and Syria on Feb 6. The toll is expected to soar, with about 345,000 apartments in Turkiye now known to have been destroyed, and many still missing.

Search and rescue efforts would be "largely completed" by Sunday evening, said Yunus Sezer, head of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

The emergency work was concentrated in Hatay province, which was hit hardest by the quakes, Sezer said. The disaster agency had nearly 13,000 personnel working in the area, he said, and 430,000 people had been evacuated.

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