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Lives buried under rubble in Türkiye quake epicenter

Rescuers work near the rubble of a building destroyed in a powerful earthquake

Istanbul, Türkiye | Xinhua | Selahhatin Elbistan’s life will not be the same after the deadly twin earthquakes shook the southern part of Türkiye and buried everything under rubble.

Selahattin burst into tears when confronted with the earthquake’s damage to his business facility in the Elbistan district of the southern province of Kahramanmaras, the earthquake’s epicenter.

“There is nothing to tell. Everything is in plain sight … The house is gone, and the car is gone. But never mind. It is health that matters,” he told Xinhua.

Speaking about the condition of his home at a 22-storey building, he said, “Half of the building was gone, and the other half was partly collapsed.”

The tremors with 7.7 and 7.6 magnitudes devastated almost 10 provinces in the country. The death toll rose to 12,391, while the number of injured people hit 62,914 as of early Thursday morning. Thousands of buildings have collapsed, and many people were trapped under debris.

After sunset, Elbistan looked like a ghost town. All the buildings have been either totally collapsed or partly damaged. The electricity was cut off.

Rescue teams have been racing against time to save those trapped under the rubble in the freezing weather. Citizens who have been trying to hear good news from their loved ones were waiting for signs of hope.

Alpaslan was among them. His wife and four other family members are stuck in the stairwell of the totally collapsed building.

“We heard a new sound coming from the rubble. We get excited,” Alpaslan told Xinhua without giving his last name. “I hope they are all alive.”

He appreciated the support of all other citizens pouring into the region from different parts of the country to help. “God bless all of them,” he said.

Zeki Celik, a teacher, came from the northern province of Samsun to participate in the rescue operation. “We rescued a 62-year-old man this afternoon. We got him out and sent him to the hospital. A 12-year-old boy was also taken out and sent to the hospital,” Celik told Xinhua.

“And now there was a voice on the side of the ruined building that we see in the back,” Celik said, adding that they would launch a rescue operation with friends.

When the earthquake happened, Kerem Okyay, a businessman from the central Anatolian province of Sivas, formed a team with his friends and came to Elbistan. “In ten hours, we reached three people. Two of them were dead. We pulled an injured one out of the rubble and sent him to the hospital,” he said.

Okyay also urged citizens and authorities to supply as many construction machines as possible. “We need a breaker right now, and we need a generator,” Okyay said.

“Without these types of equipment, we cannot intervene. We don’t have a chance to remove a friend trapped between the columns by hand,” he said.

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