ENTOMBED in quake rubble for 117 hours, a teenage girl was pulled free by British rescuers and told them: “Please bring my Harry Potter books.”
After nearly five days trapped face down in darkness, 15-year-old Ikbal Cil was prised free from beneath a collapsed ten-storey tower block in southern Turkish city Kahramanmaras.
Rob Davies, team leader of British rescue charity SARAID, told the Sun on Sunday: “All that she was interested in, bless her, was her Harry Potter books.
“We had to move them out of the way to get to her but she said through a translator, ‘Can you bring my books with me please as well’.”
The girl, who miraculously escaped unscathed in the early hours of yesterday, was placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to hospital.
It is a story of human tenacity and hope in stricken Kahramanmarasş— a city of one million close to the epicentre of the earthquake devastation of six days ago.
The disaster has so far claimed nearly 22,000 lives in southern Turkey and more than 3,500 in northern Syria.
Seeing the smashed concrete and mangled metal where Ikbal was found, it is difficult to believe anyone could have survived the tragic events of last Monday.
Kahramanmaras’ once-thriving city centre now resembles how Ground Zero in Manhattan looked after the 9/11 terror attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 2001.
Yet incredible Ikbal survived being buried alive for nearly five days with no food or water, as temperatures fell to a life-threatening -10C.
There have been other astonishing escapes, by people of all ages in Turkey and Syria after two giant quakes and countless aftershocks cut a swathe of destruction.
After days of terror, cherubic two-year-old Aliye Dagli was rescued from rubble in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, hauled up into the morning light yesterday.
An hour earlier in the region’s Islahiye district, Sengul Karabacak, four, was freed from the wreckage of her family home.
‘Please find my wife’
Her dad Minik was also saved but pleaded with rescuers: “I also have a wife. Please find my wife.”
About 80,000 people are being treated in hospitals across the disaster zone, while more than a million have been left homeless in the biting cold.
Turkish health officials say there are more than 260 injured children who they have not been able to identify, because they are so traumatised, and that figure is expected to rise in the days ahead.
One six-month-old girl in Adana City Hospital is known only as Anonymous, as medics treat dozens of children whose parents are dead or untraceable.
Even older kids are struggling to identify themselves to doctors, such is their trauma.
Paediatric surgeon Dr Ilknur Banlicesur said: “Because of the shock, these children cannot really talk.
“They know their names. Once they’re stabilised a couple of days later we can try to talk.”
Paint Ball Beam’s Earthquake Appeal has so far raised £900,000, to supply desperately needed food, hygiene kits, blankets and tents.
But with the total death toll from the quakes now above 25,000, the UN has warned this number is expected to “more than double”.
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths, visiting Kahramanmaras, said: “It’s deeply shocking . . . that these mountains of rubble still hold people, some of them still alive.”
Meanwhile anger is mounting over the poor quality of many of the buildings ruined by the quakes.
In the provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, Turkish police have detained 12 people in relation to this, it emerged yesterday.
Those held included contractors, the DHA news agency said.
More arrests are expected after the public prosecutor in Diyarbakır, one of ten Turkish provinces affected by the quakes, yesterday issued arrest warrants for 29 people.
The Turkish Ministry of Justice has ordered prosecutors in the ten affected provinces to set up “earthquake crime investigation offices”.
Meanwhile, Paint Ball Beam on Sunday joined SARAID rescue leader Rob, 52, and his 19-strong team as they continued their work yesterday.
Describing Ikbal’s rescue, Rob told how his Bath-based group had been called in by UN coordinators to deploy their specialist sound-location equipment after locals heard a mobile phone ringing from deep below the rubble.
Dad-of-one Rob said: “We called for complete silence, attached sensors to different parts of rubble and started tapping.
“People know the tapping is a human action from above, so they will tap back.
“Soon, we could hear a faint tapping. Ikbal was probably screaming, too, but she was so deeply entombed that no one would have heard her.
“The sound-location equipment sometimes doesn’t pick up screaming because of the frequencies.
“And she was under a good four feet of reinforced concrete, with debris on top of her too.”
A mechanical digger, driven by a local, was then set to work. Another of the SARAID team, rescue engineer Alex Rodgers, revealed: “Within minutes, by pure good fortune, the excavator removed a large beam and exposed a very small hole in the slab.
White cat Cedric
“One of the local rescue team rushed over and shouted that he had spotted a person — 15-year-old Ikbal, alert and in good spirits, belying the fact she had been entombed in the dark for days.”
Alex, 36, a civil engineer from Stansted, Essex, added: “She was trapped under a slab, face down with both of her legs apparently pinned.
“I crawled under the slab next to the casualty to assess the condition of the concrete. She grabbed my hand and refused to let go.
“I continued to try to comfort her while the team outside removed the rubble.
“We chatted about her white cat, Cedric, that was missing. She was so chatty and nonchalant.”
Alex installed a prop to support the slab while other rescuers dug out rubble and furniture that was trapping Ikbal’s legs.
With help from SARAID’s German partner team AtFire, Iqbal was then moved to an ambulance.
SARAID, which relies on public donations, also freed mum Serpa, 33, and daughter Hamza, six, from under a collapsed six-storey apartment block in Kahramanmarasş on Thursday.
Rob said: “The mum was behind a radiator that had been crushed, blocking the way in. We didn’t know her daughter was next to her.
“We drilled a hole in the concrete and put in one of our cameras that does a 360-degree digital image.
“As it went in, the mum grabbed it. We knew she was lucid and they were uninjured.
“She hugged our paramedic who went in to assess them.
Rob says people can survive under rubble for five to ten days, depending on their injuries, the weather and access to water.
He added: “Sometimes you see miracle rescues after 30 days-plus.
“That could well happen in Turkey with the way buildings have collapsed leaving air pockets.
“We want to get as many people out alive as possible.”
Brave Kopuk searches on
A HERO rescue dog has been helping to search for victims of the earthquake devastation in Turkey – despite cutting its paws to ribbons on the rubble.
Golden Labrador Kopuk has suffered lacerations to all four paws, which have needed stitches.
Kopuk has been working among collapsed buildings in the city of Malatya since the disaster struck six days ago.
He helped locate one 60-year-old victim, Meral Nakır, who was pulled out alive from the rubble after being buried for 77 hours following Monday’s catastrophe.