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77-year-old woman found alive in rubble – 212 hours after deadly earthquake

By Sarah May
|
February 15, 2023

The devastation wrought by the recent earthquake in Turkey becomes more apparent with each passing day, but a rare glimmer of hope that additional survivors may be found emerged when on Monday, a 77-year-old woman was freed from the rubble of a collapsed building on Tuesday, as the Daily Mail reports.

That the rescued woman, Fatma Gungor, was pulled alive from the debris after nearly nine days trapped beneath it provided new motivation for emergency teams, despite the knowledge that as more time elapses since the quake, the likelihood of finding further signs of life dwindles even more.

Elderly woman among rescued

As the New York Post explained, Gungor's rescue was the subject of video released by Turkey's Ministry of National Defense showing the dramatic scene leading up to her rescue in the city of Adiyaman.

After she was extricated from the remains of the building under which she was trapped, Gungor was placed into an evacuation helicopter and taken to a hospital in the town of Mersin, where she was set to receive treatment for injuries sustained in the ordeal.

One of those involved in Gungor's rescue noted the sense of exhilaration that came with finding a survivor amid diminishing odds.

“I'm so excited, I don't know what to say. We almost got to the point of giving up,” the crew member said to broadcaster TRT Haber, according to the Post.

Miracles amid the rubble

Gungor's rescue was not the only unlikely success story in recent days, with the BBC chronicling the story of a five-year-old boy named Aras, who was also released from beneath the earthquake rubble nearly 105 hours after the disaster took place.

Incredibly, when Aras was taken to the hospital, his body temperature had plummeted to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and though he sustained multiple injuries, including one to his foot, he is expected to make a successful recovery.

Aras' grandfather, Mehmet, has pledged to spend the rest of his life caring for his grandson, whom he described as “an honest boy,” adding, “He has a strong personality. He's sincere. He's not a spoilt boy.”

Mehmet's dedication will play an important role, as the outlet noted that as a result of the earthquake, Aras lost his father, his seven-year-old sister, and his nine-year-old brother, and though his mother did survive, she is currently hospitalized and has been unable to see her son.

"God is great!"

While the tragic proportions of the loss of life suffered in Turkey and neighboring Syria cannot be overstated, reports of the unlikeliest of rescues that have continued into this week have defied predictions and lifted the spirits of those who needed it most.

The story of Seher Ghanam, 15, was a particularly bright light for many, and her Monday rescue – nearly 209 hours after the quake – was heralded by all who witnessed it, as the Mail noted.

Found alive in the Hatay province of Turkey, Ghanam was seen on camera with her fingers pointing skyward as she was carried off in a stretcher on her way to an ambulance and subsequent medical treatment. To the amazement of those in the immediate vicinity, the teen's father, Faez Ghanam, was also rescued from beneath the rubble of the same building just before his daughter was freed.

NBC News reported that in another especially emotional rescue, a young girl named Miray was pulled, crying, from beneath the remains of a decimated structure in Adiyaman on Monday after having been trapped for 178 hours. “God is great!” shouted the exhausted rescuers, upon locating and extricating the child before placing her on a stretcher.

Government response questioned

As the chances of continuing to find survivors within the thousands of toppled structures inside Turkey grow slimmer, attention has turned to criticism of the government's emergency response, and questions are being raised about the sufficiency of its preparation for a disaster of such massive proportions, as NPR notes.

With the death toll rising daily and at least 380,000 now left homeless, many are taking a hard look at whether officials could have done things differently, with Has University lecturer Soli Ozel declaring flatly, “This government was just not prepared.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged that “the first day we had some discomforts,” but soon claimed that “the situation got under control,” but others – including Ozel – argue that national funds – including tax revenue earmarked for national disaster response – have been used to pay for highway construction programs and other initiatives overseen by associates of the president.

Opposition political leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said bluntly, “They grease their cronies' plans with earthquake taxes. Where is that money? It's gone,” and though officials will likely remain focused on rescue, recovery, and rebuilding for at least the very near term, it remains to be seen whether deeper investigation of – or accountability for – the government's alleged failings will be forthcoming.