After nearly 200 hours entombed in the rubble of a collapsed building in southeastern Turkey, an 18-year-old man was pried free by rescuers on Tuesday morning, becoming the third such improbable rescue of the day over a week after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake leveled towns, killed tens of thousands of people and displaced many more in Turkey and Syria.
The rescues served as bright spots in one of the bleakest periods in memory for Turkey, which has lost more than 31,000 people to the quake since it shook the region early on Feb. 6. Relief organizations say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are a crucial time period for finding survivors.
Turkey’s National Defense Department and national broadcasters shared footage of the rescues amid mounting anxiety over the vast number of people left homeless and hungry, the arrests of contractors suspected of bearing some responsibility for the collapsed buildings, and the politically loaded recriminations over who should shoulder the blame.
In the devastated city of Adiyaman, the footage showed, the bright red and yellow hard hats and vests of aid workers surrounding the man, Muhammed Cafer Cetin, contrasted with his dust-caked skin and hair.
After digging him clear of the twisted iron and blocks of cement, they had attached him to an IV, fit him with an oxygen mask and wrapped him in a shimmering survival blanket. They then delicately carried him in a stretcher over the debris under which he had been buried toward an ambulance that was waiting to take him to the hospital. His condition was not immediately clear.
Hope also shimmered faintly in the city of Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter of the quake, where workers extracted two brothers, Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, and Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21.
The young men’s eyes were closed and their arms were bound in stretchers as rescuers in fatigues and bright vests carried them away. Desperate for good news, the workers embraced one another and cheered as the brothers left for the hospital.
There, the older brother explained to a reporter from the Ihlas news agency how the two had survived under the rubble with the help of supplements that he took as a body builder.
“Breathing was easy,” he said. “We drank our own urine. We took protein powder.”
Their mother had been rescued from the wreckage two days earlier and was being treated in a hospital in the city of Kayseri for leg injuries.