Turkey miraculously pulls sisters out of rubble three days after quake

IZMIR, TURKEY (AP) – In what one rescue worker called “a miracle,” extraction teams brought two girls out alive yesterday from the wreckage of their collapsed apartment buildings in the Turkish city of Izmir, three days after a strong earthquake hit Turkey and Greece.

Onlookers applauded in joy and relief as ambulances carrying the girls rushed to hospitals immediately after their rescues.

The overall death toll in Friday’s quake reached 85 after teams found more bodies overnight amid toppled buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.

Close to 1,000 people were injured, mostly in Turkey, in the quake, which was centred in the Aegean Sea northeast of the Greek island of Samos. It killed two teenagers on Samos and injured at least 19 other people on the island.

Rescue workers clapped in unison yesterday as 14-year-old Idil Sirin was removed from the rubble, after being trapped for 58 hours. Her eight-year-old sister, Ipek, did not survive, NTV television reported.

Rescue workers carry quake victim Idil Sirin in Izmir, Turkey. PHOTO: AP

Seven hours later, rescuers working on another toppled building extricated three-year-old Elif Perincek, whose mother and two sisters had been rescued two days earlier. The child spent 65 hours in the wreckage of her apartment and became the 106th person to be rescued alive, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Muammer Celik of Istanbul’s search-and-rescue team told NTV television that he thought Elif was dead when he reached the child 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.”

Celik said, “it was a miracle, it was a true miracle.”

The girl would not let go of his hand throughout the rescue operation, Celik said, adding: “I am now her big brother.”

There was some debate over the magnitude of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while Istanbul’s Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and Turkey’s emergency management agency said it measured 6.6.