ERCIS, Turkey – A 13-year-old boy, trapped for five days inside fallen debris, used a rock in a desperate attempt to dig a hole and free himself from a building that collapsed in a massive earthquake that struck eastern Turkey, his uncle said Friday.
Rescuers from Azerbaijan pulled Ferhat Tokay out of the debris of a multistory building early on Friday, the latest survivor to emerge from the devastation of the 7-2-magnitude quake that leveled buildings and killed at least 570 people.
Some 2,500 were injured in the temblor that brought down about 2,000 buildings and left thousands homeless.
Tokay was working in a shoe shop on the ground floor of a multistory building in Ercis when the quake hit on Sunday.
"With a rock, he tried to open up a hole," the uncle, Sahin Tokay, told NTV television hours after the rescue. "He thumped on walls to try to open up a space for himself."
Tokay said the boy also placed shoes under his head and used them as a pillow to sleep, peering through a tiny gap to distinguish between day and night.
"He was hungry on the first day, but the hunger pangs later disappeared," Tokay said.
The state-run Anatolia news agency said the boy drank rain water which helped keep him alive.
For the family who had anxiously waited outside the crumbled building for days, Ferhat's rescue was a miracle.
Rescue teams sent the boy's father and other relatives away from the site to get some rest in the early hours of Friday, saying there was no chance of finding him alive. Soon after, they were called back with news that the crew had reached him.
"He didn't even have a scratch on him!" the uncle said.
Television footage showed the boy smiling at people standing around his hospital bed.
"He said he was hungry and asked for food," he uncle said.
"He also got his father to promise not to play tile rummy (in coffee houses) anymore" Tokay said in reference to a popular pass-time for men in Turkey.
The 213-person team from the Azeri Special Risk Rescue Service, equipped with sniffer dogs, have pulled out 10 survivors since arriving to offer services late Sunday, including Tokay and 18-year-old Imdat Padak who was brought out late Thursday.
Attesting to the dangerous nature of the rescue operations, rubble fell on a sniffer dog called Cip while searching for Padak inside a gap, seriously injuring its paws, the Azerbaijani team said.
The government's crisis management center said a total of 187 people have been freed from rubble alive. Search and rescue operations have ended in the provincial capital of Van, but were continuing in Ercis.
Turkish authorities delivered more tents after acknowledging distribution problems that included aid trucks being looted before they reached Ercis. Tents, prefabricated homes, blankets and heaters also started arriving from a dozen countries, after Turkey said asked for assistance to help shelter people left homeless in near-freezing conditions.
About 2,000 buildings have been destroyed and authorities declared another 3,700 buildings unfit for habitation.