On Friday, 11 days after an earthquake that claimed more than 43,000 lives, left millions homeless, and launched a massive relief effort, rescue crews in Turkey found three people still alive underneath collapsed structures.
The dead in Turkey and Syria, many of whom were unable to get complete burial rituals due to the magnitude of the calamity, were remembered in mosques around the world during prayers for absentee funerals.
While many international rescue teams have departed the enormous earthquake zone, survivors are still overcoming all odds and crawling out from under countless destroyed homes.
One man was rescued in the southern province of Hatay, 278 hours after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in the dead of night on Feb. 6, the Anadolu news agency said.
Earlier, Osman Halebiye, 14, and Mustafa Avci, 34, were saved in Turkey’s historic city of Antakya, known in ancient times as Antioch. As Avci was carried away, he was put on a video call with his parents who showed him his newborn baby.
“I had completely lost all hope. This is a true miracle. They gave me my son back. I saw the wreckage and I thought nobody could be saved alive from there,” his father said.
An exhausted Avci was later reunited with his wife Bilge and daughter Almile at a hospital in Mersin.
Experts say most rescues occur in the 24 hours following an earthquake. However, a teenage girl was saved 15 days after a devastating quake in Haiti in 2010, giving hope that more people might yet be found.
The death toll in Turkey now stands at 38,044, making it the worst disaster in modern Turkish history. But this number is expected to shoot up given some 264,000 apartments were lost in the quake and many people are still unaccounted for.
Authorities have reported more than 5,800 dead in the neighboring country of Syria, which has already been devastated by more than ten years of civil conflict. For days, the toll has not altered.
The majority of Syria’s fatalities have occurred in the country’s northwest, which is under the authority of insurgents at war with President Bashar al-Assad. This conflict has hindered efforts to assist earthquake victims.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday that the sides engaged in fighting for the first time since the disaster, with government forces bombing Atareb, a rebel-held town that was severely damaged by the earthquake.