Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rescuers Fight to Save Thousands Still Missing




ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Racing against time to find survivors in the wreckage of Turkey's devastating earthquake, rescuers pulled two children barely alive out of the rubble Friday - as well as thousands of decaying bodies that pushed the death toll above 10,000.


With the scope of the catastrophe becoming clearer three days after the powerful quake, the government admitted that the lack of water and sweltering heat made chances of survival slim for as many as 35,000 people still believed buried under the rubble.


The grim toll surged Friday to 10,059 dead and more than 45,000 injured, the government said.


"The magnitude of the tragedy is beyond any imagination,'' government spokesman Sukru Sina Gurel said in Ankara, the capital. "We are talking about tens of thousands of buildings that were wrecked.''


Doctors say people trapped in such situations usually die of dehydration after 72 hours - a window that passed early Friday for Turkey's quake victims.


But miracles were still happening.


Hungarian specialists with sniffer dogs pinpointed the spot where a little girl was trapped after local emergency workers heard a voice under a collapsed house in the hard-hit Izmit region.


After five hours of digging, the girl was pulled out, frail, thin and barely moving, to cheers from the gathered crowd. She was rushed by ambulance to a nearby medical camp.


A few kilometers away, a team of Russian rescuers saved a 16-year-old girl in the port town of Golcuk.


Medical teams, meanwhile, were immunizing rescue workers against typhoid and warning of health dangers for the masses of quake homeless, crowded into parks or along roadsides in the sweltering heat, without running water or sanitary facilities.


The stench of decay pervaded flattened towns like Adapazari, where at least 2,800 people were killed. Smashed sewage lines and the thousands of homeless living on garbage-strewn streets without portable toilets or fresh water compounded the risk of cholera or other infectious diseases spreading.


"We can't cope with this,'' Oguz Titiz, a doctor, said on NTV from Adapazari.


Health services were in a shambles, despite the arrival of an Israeli medical team, which set up across from the quake-damaged state hospital.


Stairs had collapsed in building the Israelis chose, making the first-floor the only one accessible. Some 40 Turkish medical students were sent to help, along with truckloads of supplies, but no one seemed to be in charge.


"There are wild problems with organization,'' said nurse Egemen Keskin, trying to nap on a lawn in her dirty white uniform. "Nobody knows what they're doing here. ... We've got all the aid we need but no one to supervise it. Everything is in shambles.''


Doctors said the tens of thousands with open wounds suffered in the quake or in rescue efforts were at special risk of infection from unsanitary conditions.


The prime minister's crisis office said medical teams have begun immunizing rescue workers against typhoid, while others were picking up garbage, spraying disinfectant and distributing chlorine tablets to survivors for purifying water.


"There are many people, animals and food under the debris,'' said Health Ministry official Rifat Kose. "An epidemic could occur as they decay, but we are taking necessary measures.''


But the World Health Organization in Geneva on Friday called the health risk from unburied cadavers "negligible,'' saying resources were better spent on providing portable toilets and clean water and monitoring for outbreaks.


Jarring the country's shattered nerves even more was a report Thursday from Turkey's top seismologist of unusual seismic activity, leading him to believe that another earthquake was possible.


Panicked Turks grabbed food and bed sheets and spent the night on the streets in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities.


In Bursa, a major city 250 kilometers south of Istanbul, the governor's office ordered hotels not to accept guests. Some hospitals even moved their patients outdoors.


A mild aftershock registering 4.3 was recorded early morning Friday, and another at magnitude 4.6 at midday. Dozens of similar temblors have shaken western Turkey since Tuesday's 7.4 quake, but no significant damage was reported.


Turkey has mobilized 50,000 soldiers to help in the rescue efforts, and aid has poured in from across the world.


Some 2,000 foreign rescuers in the quake zone headed out with sniffer dogs and high-tech gear to resume the search for survivors Friday.


A United Nations spokesman in New York, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, told reporters Thursday that some 35,000 people could be still buried under debris.


In Adapazari, government workers buried 963 people in a mass grave. They took pictures of the dead so they could later be identified by families.