Antakya and Iskenderun, Turkey – After the earthquakes struck Turkey last week, Erdem Avsaroglu’s sister, her husband, and their two children were trapped in the rubble of their collapsed apartment block in Antakya. Yet they were alive and could communicate with rescuers.
That changed a day and a half later, after a fire broke out on Tuesday night deep inside the rubble, possibly from a generator. Avsaroglu, a professional firefighter, watched in frustration that night as the fire raged for hours.
After the fire, no more sounds came from the wreckage. Heat still emanated from the building remnants on Sunday, almost five days later, as diggers worked to painstakingly sift through and clear the rubble. Avsaroglu no longer held out any hope for his family’s survival.
“This is the seventh day now, everyone is tired, we just want to find the bodies in one piece. But we can’t find anything, probably they all got burned,” he said.
About 80 people lived in the block – 21 had been saved before the fire and 12 bodies have been found, while the remaining 47 are still missing. The condition of the bodies that have been recovered has added to the anguish. “Some families only collected bones because of the fire,” Avsaroglu said.
Among rescuers and family members, the anger was palpable as questions arose over how the 10-year-old building collapsed, especially when many older surrounding constructions remained standing. Rescuers were collecting what they said was evidence that the supermarket on the ground floor had removed supporting columns.