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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Six more people are rescued in Turkey, as its death toll tops 35,000

Search and rescue teams looking for survivors in Antakya, Turkey, on Tuesday.

By Gulsin Harman and Emma Bubola

As six more people were pulled from the rubble in southeastern Turkey, officials said on Wednesday that rescue efforts were underway in hundreds of buildings where survivors of last week’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake and its aftershocks may still be alive.

“Praise be, we touched one more life. There is no losing hope,” one rescuer said in an interview with Anadolu after Fatma Gungor, 77, was removed from the rubble in the city of Adiyaman. After she was shown being carried out on a stretcher, covered in a gold foil blanket and wearing an oxygen mask, another rescuer added: “I am so excited. I don’t know what to say. We were on the verge of giving up.”

Such rescues, which are increasingly improbable after the first 72 hours following natural disasters, have been a small sliver of positive news in a country where over 35,000 people died in the earthquake and more than 1 million have been left without shelter. As state-controlled news outlets have covered the rescues, less of a spotlight has been put on the many more bodies being pulled out each day, the conditions of the rescued people or the public anger over the government’s response to the tragedy.

For now, the rescues were celebrated as a rare bright spot amid the dust, death and destruction. In Gungor’s case, the rescuers told Anadolu that one of her family members had urged the team to keep going overnight, even as the rescuers themselves were worn down and hungry.

“I told them that it was their call,” the rescuer said. “We continue as long as you tell us so.”

AFAD, Turkey’s emergency agency, said that as of Tuesday search and rescue efforts were continuing in 682 buildings across the 10 provinces of Turkey that were hit by the earthquake. A spokesperson for the agency said that rescuers were using thermal cameras and sound-detecting machines to determine whether anyone was trapped inside.

“The rescue efforts continue in buildings where there is hope for a person is alive,” the agency said in a statement.

On Wednesday morning, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said at a news conference in Kahramanmaras that search and rescue efforts were continuing in 215 buildings in the city.

More than a dozen people have been rescued in Turkey after spending more than 200 hours trapped in the rubble. Two brothers survived by rationing bodybuilding supplements, drinking their own urine and swallowing gulps of air.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cemile Kekec, 74, was removed from the rubble, 227 hours after the earthquake in Kahramanmaras, the same hard-hit city where Melike Imamoglu, 42, was rescued in the morning, according to the Anadolu news agency. A woman and her two children were also rescued Wednesday afternoon in the city of Antakya.

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