Three people pulled out of Turkish quake rubble


By Selcan Hacaoglu and Suzan Fraser, AP

ERCIS, Turkey–Two teachers and a university student were rescued from ruined buildings in eastern Turkey on Wednesday, three days after a devastating earthquake, but searchers said hopes of finding anyone else alive were rapidly fading. NTV television said 25-year-old teacher Seniye Erdem was pulled out around the same time that rescue workers also freed another teacher. The woman was thirsty and asked about her husband, who had died, it said. Excavators with heavy equipment began clearing debris from some collapsed buildings in Ercis after searchers removed bodies and determined there were no other survivors. The 7.2-magnitude quake Sunday has killed at least 461 people and injured over 1,350. “At the moment, we don’t have any other signs of life,” said rescuer Riza Birkan. “We are concentrating on recovering bodies.” Still, rescue efforts continued in some areas of Ercis, the worst hit town in the temblor that also rattled Iran and Armenia. Gozde Bahar, a 27-year-old English teacher, was pulled out of a ruined building on Wednesday with injuries as her tearful mother watched anxiously. The state-run Anatolia news agency said her heart stopped at a field hospital but doctors managed to revive her. Earlier in the day, rescuers pulled out 18-year old university student Eyup Erdem, using tiny cameras mounted on sticks to locate him. They broke into applause as he emerged from the wreckage. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said 63 teachers were among the dead and he alleged that shoddy construction contributed to the high casualty toll. He compared the alleged negligence of some officials and builders to murder because they ignored safety standards. “Despite all previous disasters, we see that the appeals were not heeded,” Erdogan said. He acknowledged problems in sending aid for thousands of people who were left homeless, but said close to 20,000 tents have since been sent to the quake zone. Turkey has said it will accept prefabricated homes and containers from other countries to house survivors, many of whom have slept in the open in near-freezing temperatures for three nights. “There was a failure in the first 24 hours, but in such situations such shortcomings are normal,” Erdogan said. “There may not be sufficient equipment in depots at the start, but these have (now) been resolved with equipment from other depots.” The quake destroyed one school and Turkish engineers were making sure other schools were safe or rendering them fit to resume lessons. Some 800 students at that school in Ercis were probably saved because the quake hit on a Sunday. Men formed a long line for tents in Ercis, but there was chaos elsewhere. The head of the Turkish Red Crescent organization, Ahmet Lutfi Akar, said 17 trucks were looted before aid could be distributed.