Three more pulled out of rubble alive almost three days after quake

Searchers working under floodlights early on Wednesday pulled out an 18-year old »»

Searchers working under floodlights early on Wednesday pulled out an 18-year old university student and two school teachers from the rubble of an apartment building more than 60 hours after a devastating earthquake struck eastern Turkey.

Using tiny cameras mounted on sticks to locate survivors, rescue workers found Eyüp Erdem and broke into applause as he emerged from the wreckage of a multistory building in the city of Erciş, which was hit the hardest by the magnitude-7.2 quake that struck on Sunday. The state-run Anatolia news agency said Erdem was injured and was being treated at a field hospital. The student, who had moved to Erciş a month ago to study mechanics at a university, was the latest to be pulled out of the rubble alive as rescuers desperately worked against the clock to find survivors.

The English-language teacher, Gözde Bahar, was also freed from the wreck with injuries 67 hours after the quake on Wednesday.  As she was being transported to hospital her heart briefly stopped. She was in critical condition.

"Of course I still have hope," Bahar's fiance, Hasan Gürcan, 29, said looking dazed as he relayed the news on his mobile.    

Rescuers also pulled a 25-year old school teacher out of a ruined building on Wednesday.  Seniye Erdem was pulled out on Wednesday around the same time that rescue workers also freed another teacher.  The woman told rescuers she was thirsty and asked about her husband - who had died.

The survival of a 14-day-old prematurely born baby girl called Azra rescued on Tuesday also lifted spirits.    

"We have hope. There are always miracles. Normally, we do not expect anyone to survive after 72 hours but people have survived longer than that before," said a rescue official standing by the collapsed building where Azra was found.    

But a senior rescue official in Van told Reuters: "Search and rescue operation in the centre of Van are now over. We have reached the bottom of the wreckage and searches are now over in the centre of Van." He said the searches in the centre of the town had included six buildings.    

On a main street in Van rescue workers pulled out the dead body of a woman in her 20s from the flattened remains of a seven-storey apartment block.    

The quake has killed at least 471 people. Health Ministry official Seraceddin Çom said some 40 people were pulled out alive from collapsed buildings on Tuesday.

They included a 2-week-old baby girl brought out half-naked but alive from the wreckage of an apartment building 48 hours after the quake. Her mother and grandmother were also rescued, but her father was missing.

The pockets of jubilation were however, tempered by many more discoveries of bodies by thousands of aid workers.

Desperate survivors fought over aid and blocked aid shipments. A powerful aftershock ignited widespread panic that triggered a prison riot in a nearby provincial city.

With thousands left homeless or too afraid to return to damaged houses, Turkey said it would accept international aid offers, even from Israel, with which it has had strained relations. The country said it would need prefabricated homes to house survivors during the winter. Israel offered assistance despite a rift between the two countries over last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists.

Some 2,000 buildings collapsed and some 1,650 people were injured. The fact that the quake hit in daytime, when many people were out of their homes, averted an even worse disaster.

Close to 500 aftershocks have rattled the area, according to Turkey's Kandilli seismology center. A strong aftershock on Tuesday sent residents rushing into the streets in panic while sparking a riot that lasted several hours by prisoners in the city of Van, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Ercis. The U.S. Geological Survey put that temblor at a magnitude of 5.7.

Gerald Rockenshaub, disaster response manager at the World Health Organization, said the first 48 to 72 hours are crucial for rescues and the chances of finding survivors decrease significantly after that. People can survive without food for a week or so, but having access to water is critical, especially for the elderly and infants, he said.