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Triple rescue joy for Turkish family after quake
by Staff Writers
Ercis, Turkey (AFP) Oct 25, 2011

Turkey asks Israel for caravans for quake homeless
Jerusalem (AFP) Oct 25, 2011 - Turkey on Tuesday asked Israel for caravans for those made homeless by its killer earthquake, despite diplomatic tensions between the former close allies, an Israeli official said.

"Turkey has asked us for caravans for the homeless after the earthquake" in the east of the country, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP. "We accepted immediately and we will quickly see what we can supply."

The defence ministry said a first Boeing 747 would transport mobile homes to Turkey on Wednesday, and other planes would follow in the coming days. The request for aid was delivered through the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv.

Israel made an offer of assistance on Sunday, shortly after the quake struck, but initially without it being taken up by Turkey. President Shimon Peres called his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to express sympathy.

A 7.2-magnitude quake hit Van in eastern Turkey, killing at least 432 people.

Ties between Israel and Turkey, once strong allies, have been strained since May 2010 when Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla trying to sail to Gaza in defiance of a blockade, killing nine Turks.

But despite the frayed relations, the two countries have maintained a tradition of offering each other assistance in times of emergency.

Rescuers plucked a two-week-old baby girl, her mother and grandmother from the rubble of Turkey's devastating earthquake Tuesday, sparking scenes of joy that electrified search efforts.

Crowds cheered and applauded as 73-year-old Gulzade Karaduman was carried into an ambulance, hours after her tiny granddaughter Azra and then her daughter Seniha Karaduman were pulled free from the wreckage of the family home in the eastern town of Ercis.

As the death toll reached 459 and the Red Crescent warned that hundreds or even thousands of people remained buried under the debris from Sunday's quake, the triple rescue provided vital relief amid the otherwise grim task.

"It is priceless to find someone alive and all my exhaustion is over," said Oytun Gulpinar, the leader of a team of rescuers who had arrived in Ercis after a 32-hour road journey from the western city of Izmir.

"I got to hold a 16-day-old baby, which is utterly priceless," he added.

Azra was brought out by Kadir Direk, the smallest member of the Izmir team, who described how he managed to squeeze through the debris and then scoop her off the lap of her mother.

"I was the happiest person in the world when I held her," said the pint-sized 35-year-old.

"When I took her from her mother, she asked me to give her a second name."

He choose Aysenur, combining the name of the Prophet Mohammed's wife and the word "light".

Later on Tuesday, rescuers managed to save a 10-year-old boy from the wreckage of his house in the city center of Van, more than 54 hours after the quake hit.

Serhat Gul was in the rubble of a seven-storey building, his home, from where his brother and father had been rescued earlier, TV reports said.

Emergency teams also earlier pulled a pregnant woman and her two children alive from the rubble in Ercis as they laboured through the night under search lights with the help of sniffer dogs.

"Hundreds, possibly thousands of people are still trapped under the rubble," said Jessica Sallabank, a spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The IFRC said that 2,256 buildings -- mostly apartments -- were destroyed during the quake which struck on Sunday afternoon with its epicentre in the eastern province of Van.

An update from emergency services put the death toll at 459, with more than 1,350 injured.

The population of the region is mainly Kurdish and the quake came amid a major army operation targeting the separatist PKK militia in response to a series of deadly attacks.

In a sign of the simmering ethnic tensions, dozens of residents of the provincial capital Van hurled stones at journalists and police on Tuesday after a well-known television presenter criticised Kurds' appeals for help.

Police used pepper gas to disperse the angry crowd, but there were complaints among survivors in other areas that soldiers whose barracks had been damaged were being given priority in the aid effort.

Prisoners at a prison in the suburbs of Van set their blankets on fire, demanding that they be moved to a safer location, according to relatives.

Residents meanwhile spent a second night outside in freezing temperatures.

"I am still trembling. ... As long as those aftershocks go on, we will stay in the street," Gulizar, a Kurdish woman in her 40s, told AFP as she tried to keep warm in front of a makeshift fire in Van city centre.

With night-time temperatures expected to dip to two degrees Celsius (36 Fahrenheit) and snow forecast for Wednesday, residents took shelter anywhere they could -- some in cars or tents and others under just a blanket.

One resident, named only as Nebahat, said: "We have no heater, we received no blankets, not even pain killers."

"We have been freezing all night, we only had three blankets which I managed to take from my home."

The football pitch in Ercis has been transformed into a sea of tents set up by the Red Crescent as the stadium serves as a makeshift field hospital, with hunreds of units of blood rushed to the region.

The government said search and rescue teams from 45 cities and more than 200 ambulances were deployed across the disaster-struck area.

Israel said on Tuesday that Turkey had asked it for caravans for those made homeless by the quake and the Jewish state would be sending the first mobile homes on Wednesday.

The Turkish Red Crescent has sent some 7,500 tents, more than 22,000 blankets, almost 4,000 heaters and 1,000 body bags to the region.

In 1999, two strong quakes in northwest Turkey's heavily populated and industrialised regions left some 20,000 dead. A powerful earthquake in the town of Caldiran in Van province killed 3,840 people in 1976.

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Family miracle lifts spirits in tragic Turkish quake zone
Ercis, Turkey (AFP) Oct 25, 2011 - As he wriggled free from the rubble, clasping tiny Azra Karaduman tight in his hands, Kadir Direk experienced a sense of euphoria in a city that has seen so much misery in recent days.

"I was the happiest person in the world when I held her," said Direk as he recounted his dramatic rescue of 16-day-old Azra from the ruins of her shattered home.

"My friends told me that I lost myself when I had the baby," added 35-year-old Direk, who was chosen to be sent into the depths of the rubble as he was the thinnest person in the team of 32 rescuers.

After Direk managed to bring Azra to the surface, he and his colleagues then turned their attentions to rescuing the infant's mother and 73-year-old grandmother. Their emergence from the debris triggered tearful applause and cheers from the awe-struck crowds in this town in Turkey's mainly Kurdish east.

Direk's team had spent 32 hours on the road to Ercis, driving from the west coast city of Izmir -- a distance of some 1,400 kilometers (875 miles).

"It was priceless to find someone alive and all my exhaustion is over," said Oytun Gulpinar, the leader of the team of rescuers who had arrived in Ercis after a 32-hour road journey from the western city of Izmir.

Azra, whose 24-year-old mother Seniha breast-fed her under the debris, was rushed to hospital in Ercis before an air ambulance flew her to Ankara.

Seniha and Azra's grandmother Gulzade also needed treatment after becoming severely dehydrated.

The rescuers believe that Azra's father is still under the rubble, although they have no indication as to whether he is alive or not.

The rescue of the three family members raised the hopes for other people who were desperately waiting in front of the pile of rubble which was once a two-storey apartment block before the ground began to shake beneath it on Sunday afternoon.

There were similar scenes at other parts of the town where relatives refused to give up hope despite the mounting death toll which has now climbed to 432.

"This was a six-storey apartment, with a cafe on the ground floor and flats above it," said teacher Adem Kostekci as he stood outside a twisted mound of masonry.

"My uncle is still down there (in the cafe) and we cannot do anything. He only came in to play dominos."

Kostekci said he believed that his uncle was alive.

"There are survivors here. I remember 1999, people were saved after four days," he said, recalling the major quake 12 years ago in northwestern Turkey which killed more than 20,000 people.

While the rescue work continued round the clock, locals who did managed to flee their homes in time were sifting through the wreckage to rescue whatever property they could salvage and head off potential looters.

Under the supervision of a police officer and after verifying their address, one family could be seen retrieving a scarf and a wall-clock.


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Turkey's ethnic tension boils over in quake-hit city
Van, Turkey (AFP) Oct 25, 2011
Crowds of Kurds pelted journalists and police with stones in the quake-hit city of Van on Tuesday as their anger at the Turkish media's coverage of the disaster boiled over. The quake came only days after one of the deadliest attacks on the army in the three-decade-long Kurdish conflict and some journalists and bloggers have tried to portray the tragedy as payback time. Survivors have be ... read more

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