Earthquake In Turkey: No sleep for four days, but search goes on

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The Independent Online
AMID THE clattering bulldozers and dust-painted human ants scrambling back and forth with buckets of debris, Aydan Pasaoglu stopped to catch her breath. Since she was woken by the earthquake in the early hours of Tuesday she guessed she had snatched three or four hours' sleep. Certainly no more.

Early yesterday morning she was once again back amid the rubble of a collapsed building in a suburb of Istanbul knowing all too well that time was running out. "Everybody wants to do what they can while there is a chance that people are still alive," she said, a bright green surgical mask clasped around her neck with elastic.

Aydan serves with AKUT, the Turkish search and rescue volunteers who have been at the forefront of the operation to find survivors. From 3am on Tuesday when the blast rocked her family home in the east of the city she has been helping to co-ordinate the group's efforts.

"It was hard trying to get hold of people because the mobile phones were not working. I spent hours on the telephone trying to reach people and sort out where they should go," she said. "Normally I work in the fund-raising side of things but with something like this you have to do everything. Today I am here moving concrete. Yesterday I was helping to transport food and water.

"It's very hard. You are walking around on the top of a collapsed building and you realise that there may be people beneath you who are still alive. Then there are the times you can hear someone making a noise and try to get to them but find them too late. Yesterday we thought we could hear a lady crying to us but we could not find her."

Few would question the efforts of volunteers such as Aydan - who works for a Japanese multi-national - who have done so much in the past few days. But people are increasingly critical that it is the likes of Aydan, whose organisation depends on charitable aid, who are having to spearhead rescue efforts.

As the death toll continues to rise and as people realise that the chances of many more people being found alive become increasingly slim, such criticism has become more vocal.

At the site of a collapsed block of flats in Avcilar where Aydan was working, local people arriving to offer their help criticised the government for not doing more. "Look at them - they are completely ill-equipped," said Zulfiye Duzgin, whose 25-year-old brother was buried somewhere beneath the piles of concrete.

Despite the under-equipped rescue effort there are still miraculous recoveries. One man said that on Wednesday night a few blocks away a woman was carried from the wreckage after phoning the rescuers on her mobile phone.

"She had been trapped for two days and then, buried in the rubble, she found a phone," he said. "They got to her in time."