Earthquake miracle: nine-year-old girl found alive after 98 hours

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The Independent Online
SHIRAN FRANCO barely looked alive and by all rights she should have been dead, writes Andrew Buncombe in Istanbul.

For 98 hours, the nine-year-old had been trapped in the rubble of her family's holiday home, which was destroyed by Tuesday's earthquake. But yesterday an Israeli army rescue team heard faint cries from beneath the shattered concrete. An hour later Shiran was carefully lifted into daylight, while a soldier washed the dust from her face with a bottle of water.

Shiran's rescue in Cinarcik, a suburb of the town of Yalova, was one of 10 yesterday. Among the others saved was a woman aged 95, also in Yalova. But for every survivor, hundreds of corpses are removed from the rubble. With mortuaries overflowing, many bodies - photographed for later identification - had to be buried immediately in mass graves.

Yesterday rescue workers were inoculated against typhoid and cholera. Water was cut off in several disaster-hit areas to slow the spread of disease; some places may have to be quarantined. The official death toll stands at over 12,000, but with 35,000 people still missing, the final total will be closer to 50,000. Rescuers believe there will be at most only a handful more survivors.

Even Shiran's story contained as much tragedy as hope. While her mother was rescued after 30 hours, the body of Shiran's twin brother was recovered by the soldiers who saved her. Her father and grandparents - like so many thousands of others - remain missing, presumed dead.

PHOTO: SHAI YEHESKEL/ISRAELI DEFENCE FORCES

REPORTS, PAGE 2; FOCUS PAGES 14 & 15

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