By MEHMET GUZEL and SUZAN FRASER for the Associated Press
IZMIR, TURKEY (AP) — Rescuers in the Turkish city of Izmir pulled a young girl out alive from the rubble of a collapsed apartment building Tuesday, four days after a strong earthquake hit Turkey and Greece and as hopes of reaching survivors began to fade.
Wrapped in a thermal blanket, the girl was taken into an ambulance on a stretcher to the sounds of applause and chants of “God is great!” from rescue workers and onlookers.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca identified her as 3-year-old Ayda Gezgin on Twitter. The child had been trapped inside the rubble for 91 hours since Friday’s quake struck in the Aegean Sea and was the 107th person to have been pulled out of collapsed buildings alive.
After she was pulled from the rubble, little Ayda called out for her mother, in video of the rescue broadcast on television.
But Ayda’s mother did not survive. Her body was found amid the wreckage hours later. Her brother and father were not inside the building at the time of the quake.
Rescuer Nusret Aksoy told reporters that he was sifting through the rubble of the toppled eight-floor building when he heard a child’s scream and called for silence. He later located the girl in a tight space next to a dishwasher.
The girl waved at him, told him her name and said that she was okay, Aksoy said.
“I got goosebumps and my colleague Ahmet cried,” he told HaberTurk television.
Ibrahim Topal, of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH said: “My colleague and I looked at each other like ‘Did you hear that, too?’ We listened again. There was a very weak voice saying something like ‘I’m here.’ Then we shut everything down, the machines, and started listening again. And there really was a voice.”
Health ministry officials said the girl was in good condition but would be kept under observation in the hospital for a while. She asked for for meatballs and a yoghurt drink on her way to the hospital, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Her rescue came a day after another 3-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl were also pulled out alive from collapsed buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.
“We will not lose hope (about finding survivors) until our search-and-rescue efforts reach the last person under the wreck,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said following a Cabinet meeting.
Erdogan said around 6,700 people who lost their homes or were too frightened to return to them were being temporarily housed in tents. Authorities on Tuesday began assembling containers homes for the survivors, he added.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the earthquake climbed to 112, after emergency crews retrieved more bodies from toppled buildings in the city. Officials said 138 quake survivors were still hospitalized, and three of them were in serious condition.
The U.S. Geological Survey registered the quake’s magnitude at 7.0, though other agencies recorded it as less severe.
The vast majority of the deaths and some 1,000 injuries occurred in Izmir. Two teenagers also died and 19 people were injured on the Greek island of Samos, near the quake’s epicenter in the Aegean Sea.
The quake also triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir province, where one elderly woman drowned. The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul, as well as in the Greek capital of Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.
In Izmir, the quake reduced buildings to rubble or saw floors pancake in on themselves and authorities detained nine people, including contractors, for questioning over the collapse of six of the buildings.
Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal constructions that do not withstand earthquakes well. Regulations have been tightened to strengthen or demolish older buildings, and urban renewal is underway in Turkish cities, but experts say it is not happening fast enough.
The country sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent.
Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.