‘I thought I was going to die’: Turkey quake survivors’ ordeal

Rescuers are still pulling people alive from the rubble nine days after earthquakes struck Turkey even though many of the operations across the 10 affected provinces are largely focusing on recovering bodies.

At a state hospital in Osmaniye, southern Turkey, some survivors recounted the horror of being trapped under their collapsed homes and spoke about what life might hold for them next.

Gülhan Vişne, 17, high school student

“I didn’t understand what was going on at first. I ran for the door to escape the building, and that second, our one-storey building collapsed on us [Gülhan and her mother, Özlem]. A wardrobe fell and crushed my ankle.

I thought I was going to die, that it was impossible to get out. There was very little space, it was full of dust and really hard to breathe, I’m still coughing because the dust scratched my lungs.

I could hear my mother shouting, ‘kızım! kızım! [my girl! my girl!] Where are you?’. I was also shouting but my mother couldn’t hear me as I was trapped pretty deep inside the building. I hit a door with a stone to make some noise.

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At first, no one could reach me as the aftershocks were continuing, people were in shock, and only my mother tried to help me. Even with her broken ribs, she tried to pull me out of a hole that even a cat couldn’t pass through.

Eventually, more relatives and rescuers came to help. There was no light, only the light from my phone – the rescuers were shining a flashlight in to make me more comfortable because the dark made me feel afraid. It felt like years under there. I was thinking about my mother, because she has cancer and I was worried about her.

They [the rescuers] couldn’t lift the rubble off me, so they dug a really small tunnel but my foot was stuck.

I was trying to motivate myself – telling myself, ‘you’ve almost made it’ – but I passed out three or four times in those hours. But I had no time to panic, I was just trying to describe the situation and help the rescuers – ‘remove that stone, move that wardrobe, take out that door’. I was trying to give orders. It was so serious, I couldn’t panic. I was the only one who could describe how I was stuck.

They found a saw to cut the wardrobe to rescue me. I had been under there for about four hours, I was in so much pain, whenever they touched me I was in agony.

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