Rescue workers in Turkey have saved two girls, one just three, days after a major earthquake decimated the city of Izmir.
The pair and a dog named Ares were pulled from the wreckage of collapsed apartments in separate operations on Monday, as the death toll from Friday’s quake – which is believed to have been as high as 7.0 – hit 87.
A search and rescue worker branded the escape of three-year-old Elif Perincek a ‘true miracle’, after the youngster was pulled from the wreckage covered in white dust, 65 hours after becoming trapped. She became the 106th person to be rescued alive, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Muammer Celik has told of how he thought the child was dead when he reached her and was astonished when she opened her eyes.
Seven hours earlier, rescue workers had clapped as 14-year-old Idil Sirin was removed from the rubble, after a 58-hour ordeal. Her eight-year-old sister, Ipek, did not survive, NTV television reported.
Workers found more bodies overnight amid toppled buildings in Turkey’s third-largest city, where close to a thousand people were injured in the quake. Pictures also showed Ares being rescued and wrapped in a blanket to stay warm. The dog’s condition is not known but it appeared to be relatively unscathed.
It struck in the Aegean Sea, north-east of the Greek island of Samos, where two teenagers were killed and at least 19 other people were injured.
But the rescue of young Elif brought some comfort to Turks, two days after her mother and two sisters had been rescued from another toppled building. She is now recovering in hospital.
Mr Celik of the Istanbul fire department’s search and rescue team told NTV television that he thought Elif was dead when he reached her inside the wreckage.
‘There was dust on her face, her face was white,’ he said. ‘When I cleaned the dust from her face, she opened her eyes. I was astonished.’
He added: ‘It was a miracle, it was a true miracle.’
The girl would not let go of his hand throughout the rescue operation, Mr Celik said, adding: ‘I am now her big brother.’
Onlookers applauded as ambulances carrying the girls rushed to hospitals immediately after their rescue.
It comes after a 70-year-old man was pulled alive from a collapsed building some 34 hours after the earthquake.
Ahmet Citim was pulled out from the rubble and taken to hospital, with health minister Fahrettin Koca tweeting that the man said: ‘I never lost my hope.’
There has been some debate over the magnitude of the earthquake, which the US Geological Survey rated at 7.0.
Istanbul’s Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and Turkey’s emergency management agency said it measured 6.6.
The earthquake triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir, drowning one elderly woman.
The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul. People in the Greek capital Athens also felt the impact, while hundreds of aftershocks were recorded.
Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal construction, which can lead to serious damage and deaths when earthquakes hit.
Regulations have been tightened to strengthen or demolish buildings but will take some time.
The country sits on top of fault lines and is prone to earthquakes.
In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in north-western Turkey.
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