Miracle amid misery as man is rescued after 60 hours under Turkey earthquake rubble

The UN says time is running out for thousands feared to be still trapped in rubble

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As Mehmet is pulled out of the rubble of a collapsed building in Kahramanmaraş, a city in central Turkey, his mother and sisters immediately started crying and screaming.

But this is not because of grief; this is the sound of pure joy.

Despite spending 60 hours under the rubble, in freezing temperatures, with no water and food, Mehmet, 22, was found alive. The young man defied all odds.

“I thought I would never see him again," said his cousin Emin, with a huge smile on his face. “We had lost all hope."

Rescuers have been working non-stop for 60 hours around the 10-storey building where his family lived, which had completely crumbled.

The building is one of an estimated 6,000 that have been completely flattened or severely damaged by the earthquake.

Kahramanmaraş, a city in central Turkey, was near the epicentre of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, the most powerful the world has experienced since 2011, when Japan was rocked by a 9.1-magnitude quake and tsunami that killed nearly 16,000.

Facing the collapsed building, desperate families are waiting in the cold, some of them having lit fires to warm themselves during the long hours, hanging on to the hope that one of their loved ones might still be alive beneath the ruins.

Mehmet represents one of the very few miracles that bring some light to the darker tragedy.

But this heartwarming scene of a young man pulled out alive from the ruins was the conclusion of an unimaginable wait.

“We have been waiting here since the beginning," his mother told us.

Before finding Mehmet, a rescuer told us that they were looking for bodies, but that there was no way to know if they were alive or not.

More than 60 hours after the disaster, the chances of finding anyone alive are growing slimmer, the UN warned on Wednesday.

But the atmosphere drastically changed when rescuers asked people to give them water.

“It’s a sign someone is alive," someone in the crowd whispered.

People started to pass dozens of bottles to the rescuers. A wave of hope gripped the crowd.

The faces of Mehmet’s sisters started to light up. One of the sisters said they had been told their brother might still be alive. Volunteers and rescuers set up a corridor from the rubble to the ambulance to ease the way for the stretcher.

It marked the start of a two-hour wait, punctuated with false hope. A change of rhythm in the crane’s noise, a sudden move from one of the rescuers; everything was interpreted as the imminent release of Mehmet.

At some point, his mother, overwhelmed by emotion, fainted in the arms of her daughters.

Finally, Mehmet was free from his prison of stone and the crowd clapped with an inexpressible relief. Reaching the sight of his family, the young man even found the strength to wave his hands at them.

People started to hug each other, to scream, releasing tension to the point that rescuers had to shout at people to be quieter.

Their work is not done and they need complete silence to hear sounds from possible survivors. For the family as well, the wait is not over.

Mehmet’s father, Nefrez, 58, is still under the rubble.

“I’m really happy, but I’m waiting for my husband now," said the mother.

Updated: February 09, 2023, 11:24 AM
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