Rescue workers pulled out a 13-year-old boy alive from rubble yesterday, more than 100 hours after a powerful earthquake that killed more than 500 people in eastern Turkey.
The rescue lifted Turkish spirits as thousands of quake survivors endured a fifth freezing and wet night without a roof over their heads.
The boy, named as Serhat Tokay, was put in a neck brace and taken on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance after being rescued in the town of Ercis, the hardest hit by Sunday’s magnitude 7.2 quake, TV images showed.
He was the second person to be rescued within a matter of hours after an 18-year-old man was brought out on Thursday evening to cheers among grief-stricken quake survivors.
People left homeless by the quake in the predominantly Kurdish Van Province have complained bitterly over the slow delivery of relief items like tents.
Drenched by pouring rain, an increasing number are falling sick, and with the first winter snows expected next month, there is an urgent need to get people under cover fast.
Although most search operations are beginning to wind down, more than 180 people have been found alive under collapsed buildings since the quake struck just before 2pm on Sunday, according to an official count.
By late Thursday, the death toll was 535, with 2,300 people hurt in Turkey’s biggest quake in more than a decade.
No official figures were available for the homeless.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies put the number of “affected people” at 50,000 in a news release to raise funds for relief efforts.
In Ercis alone, a town of about 100,000 people, it was clear that hardly anyone was going back to their homes even if they were still standing.
Two or three tent cities have sprouted on the outskirts of Ercis, but thousands of men, having settled their families as best they can, wander the city at night looking for whatever shelter they can find.
With nowhere to go, they lean against walls to protect themselves from the rain.
Some survivors, who had stood in long lines only to be told there were no tents left, accused officials of handing aid to supporters of the ruling AK party. Others said profiteers were hoarding tents and reselling them.
Scuffles broke out in one long line to a distribution center, before police stepped in to calm tempers.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited the area hours after the disaster struck and wants to build bridges with Turkey’s minority Kurds, so any accusations of neglect or ineptitude can be politically sensitive.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in a Kurdish separatist insurgency in the region that has lasted three decades. Last week militants killed 24 troops in neighboring Hakkari Province.
The US and the EU, as well as Turkey, consider the PKK separatist guerrilla group to be a terrorist organization.
A government that had thought it could manage the relief effort alone is now gratefully accepting foreign help in the shape of tents, prefabricated housing and containers.
The first foreign planeloads of tents arrived on Thursday from France, Ukraine and Israel, despite the poor relations between the two countries.
Unable to cope with the demand for tents, relief authorities in the provincial capital, Van, decided to hand out tents to people only after verifying that their homes were too unsafe to return to.
Vainly trying to dry linen and blankets after the rain, one mother of three was ready to be persuaded to quit her tent and go home out of a mixture of desperation and resignation.
“It looks fine from the outside, but inside it looks very unstable with all the cracks in the walls,” said the woman, who gave her name as Nimet.
“The university experts and the governor say go back to your houses, and if they are ready to take responsibility we will go back. We are very cold,” she said.
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