Incredible Survival Stories Continue to Surface Nearly Two Weeks After Deadly Turkey and Syria Earthquake

Nearly two weeks after a devastating 7.8 magnitude Turkey-Syria earthquake, first responders are continuing to search and rescue survivors. Over 40,000 people lost their lives in the natural disaster, and that number is expected to climb. But people are staying strong and holding out hope as rescuers continue to find survivors among the rubble. And, as these survivors emerge, the stories of their strength and courage are astounding.

In the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, near the earthquake's epicenter, two brothers survived for nearly 200 hours under the rubble of a collapsed building. Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, stayed alive by rationing protein powder and drinking their own urine. Miraculously, their mother also survived. She was rescued two days earlier with minor injuries.

The Yeninar brothers are not the only survivors being discovered ten days after the earthquake rocked central Turkey and northern Syria. In Turkey, rescue crews are digging deep tunnels through the wreckage to pull out survivors, with some of the rescues being broadcast on the state-run television channel TRT. These rescues are giving comfort to a grieving nation and encouraging first responders to keep up their search even in frigid temperatures.

In waiting to be rescued, many survivors are finding strength they didn't know they had. This was true for 33-year-old Necla Camuz, who was trapped inside her home in Turkey's Hatay province with her 10-day-old son, Yagiz, in her arms. She waited for over 90 hours before being rescued. To survive, she breastfed her baby, who had been resting on her chest at the time of the earthquake. Camuz, who did not eat or drink anything, occasionally pounded on the overturned dresser that had saved her and her child, hoping to draw the attention of rescuers.

While Camuz was terrified that they would never be found, she looked to her infant as a source of strength. “I think if my baby hadn't been strong enough to handle this, I wouldn't have been either,” she shared, adding that she was happy that he was too young to remember what had happened.

Eventually, Camuz heard the sound of barking dogs and, shortly after, they were rescued. When the rescue team asked how old her son was, she didn't know how to respond. She knew he was 10 days old at the time of the earthquake, but wasn't sure how many days she had been trapped. All told, she and Yagiz had spent about four days waiting to be discovered.

This story has an even happier ending, as when she arrived at that hospital, Camuz was given that news that her husband and 3-year-old son had also survived. They had been in a separate room of the apartment when the earthquake struck and had been taken to a different hospital after sustaining injuries to their legs and feet. While the family has lost their home, they have now been reunited after this harrowing experience.

Yagiz is not the only newborn to have survived the earthquake. In Syria, the story of a baby who has now been named Aya, which means miracle in Arabic, captivated the nation. Aya was discovered by rescuers about 10 hours after the earthquake, still attached to her mother by her umbilical cord. Aya's mother had given birth to her under the rubble of their home but hadn't survived. Neither had Aya's father or her four siblings. But Aya, who is now doing well at the hospital, has captured the imagination of the nation.

Thousands of people have contacted the hospital where she is being treated with offers to adopt her. At the moment she is being breastfed by the wife of the hospital manager, who has a 4-month-old baby. They will care for her until she is released from the hospital and taken into the care of her great-uncle.

But babies and young children aren't the only survivors. Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu announced on Wednesday that a 77-year-old woman was rescued in the city of Adiyaman. Fatma Gungor was trapped for 212 hours before being freed and reunited with her family. Finding Gungor provided new motivation for rescuers, who have been working around the clock.

“I'm so excited, I don't know what to say. We almost got to the point of giving up,” one rescuer told the Turkish news channel TRT Haber. “We didn't even eat. Thank God it has ended well.”

According to CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, it's rare to find survivors after being trapped for more than 100 hours, but low temperatures might be a factor in helping people. “The cold weather is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes it very difficult, it is below freezing right now… On the other hand, it may reduce the demands for water. Perhaps that is playing into this,” he said.

Miracles are continuing to happen. Ten days after the earthquake, rescuer Mehmet Eryilma pulled a woman named Ela and her two children from the wreckage of a collapsed apartment in Turkey's Hatay province. The first thing Ela asked him was what day it was. Incredibly, the three only suffered from dehydration.

As always, these stories give hope that there are many people still waiting to be rescued. But once pulled from the rubble, there is a hard road ahead as people lost their homes, and many have also lost their families. If you are looking for a way to help, consider donating to Global Giving's earthquake fund.

Related Articles:

Little Girl Protects Her Brother While Waiting to Be Rescued from Earthquake

“Cat Man of Aleppo” Is Safe and Rescuing Pets After the Turkey-Syria Earthquake

Mexico Sends Its Search and Rescue Dogs to Turkey to Help in the Search for Earthquake Survivors

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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