'We thought it was the apocalypse'

‘Can anyone hear me?’: Rescuers search for survivors beneath rubble in Turkey, Syria

Tragedy unfolds as darkness, rain and cold envelop the region devastated by powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake and at least one more that hit hours later; over 3,800 confirmed dead

Men search for people among the debris in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey, February 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Men search for people among the debris in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey, February 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (AP) — Rescue workers and civilians passed chunks of concrete and household goods across mountains of rubble early Monday, moving tons of wreckage by hand in a desperate search for survivors trapped by a devastating earthquake.

“Can anyone hear me?” shouted rescuers trying to find people in the province of Kahramanmaras, the epicenter. In some places around Turkey, survivors could be heard screaming from beneath collapsed buildings.

Many people crouched to look below a massive sheet of cement propped at an angle by steel bars. They crawled in and out, trying to reach survivors. Excavating equipment dug through the rubble below.

Rescue efforts unfolded, as darkness, rain, and cold enveloped the region of Turkey and Syria devastated by a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and at least one other that hit hours later. At least 3,800 people were killed and civilians joined rescuers in desperate efforts across Turkey and Syria.

Elsewhere in Kahramanmaras province, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble. One was lying on a stretcher on the snowy ground. They quieted the throngs of people trying to help in the efforts to find survivors.

Multi-story apartment buildings full of residents were among the 5,606 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.

“That was the first time we have ever experienced anything like that,” said Melisa Salman, a 23-year-old reporter in the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras. “We thought it was the apocalypse.”

In Adana, about 20 people, some in emergency rescue jackets, used power saws atop the cement mountain of a collapsed building to carve out space that would let any survivors climb out or be rescued. Later, excavators joined the efforts as bright spotlights illuminated the wreckage.

Emergency teams search in the rubble for people in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey, February 6, 2023, following a powerful earthquake that knocked down multiple buildings in southeast Turkey and Syria and killed thousands. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Thousands of search-and-rescue personnel, firefighters, and medics were working across 10 provinces, along with some 3,500 soldiers. Residents lifted rubble and unearthed people heard screaming from beneath buildings.

Turkish military ambulance planes were transporting the injured to Istanbul and Ankara hospitals, the defense ministry said. Rescuers from across Turkey tried to make it to the provinces despite heavy snow and rainstorms. But many in Antakya, Hatay, said they did not have sufficient assistance and were worried about the miles of wreckage and those trapped within it. Hatay’s airport was severely damaged, complicating rescue efforts.

In Syria, a man held a dead girl in his arms beside a two-story collapsed cement building as he walked away from the debris. He and a woman set the girl on the floor under covering to protect her from the winter rains, wrapping her in a large blanket and looking back to the building, overwhelmed.

An official with Turkey’s disaster management authority said at least 6,445 people had been rescued across 10 provinces. The official, Orhan Tatar, said 5,606 buildings had collapsed.

AFP contributed to this report

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