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In Turkey ‘There Are Lives to Be Saved and No Time to Waste’ After Earthquake

October 24, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey on Sunday, killing at least 279 people and injuring more than 1,000. As aftershocks continued to hit the region, rescuers scrambled to free dozens of victims trapped in the rubble. John Ray of Independent Television News reports on the rescue efforts.
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TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: A desperate search was under way in Turkey today, one day after a powerful earthquake killed at least 279 people. The quake devastated the cities of Ercis and Van in eastern Turkey. Some 1,300 people were injured, and dozens more were trapped in the wreckage.

We have a report from John Ray of Independent Television News.

JOHN RAY: There are lives to be saved and no time to waste, a young boy terrified, buried under a mountain of masonry. “Be patient,” his rescuers plead. He has no choice but to wait. Close by, there are bodies. His parents’ fate is unknown.

As daylight dawned, rescuers redoubled their efforts, pulling the lucky to be living from the ruins of homes and offices. Hundreds are still trapped. As the hours pass, hopes fade.

They have been digging here now for more than 24 hours through the chill of the nights and through the dust of the day. So far, they have pulled two survivors from this rubble.

But as evening falls a second time, increasingly, this is becoming a search for bodies. This woman’s daughter and grandchild are somewhere underneath the concrete. There are many others here, praying for the best, preparing for the worst.

Close by, another body, the ruins too precarious to disturb it — the fear, they will collapse utterly. The work of rescue teams can seem agonizingly slow. To rush is to risk further disaster. This was a huge quake, even by the standards of a nation where they are all too common.

At first, it was survivors left to fend for themselves, using bare hands and brute strength to tackle the rubble. But the Turkish prime minister, touring an overcrowded hospital, says the worst of the disaster has yet to unfold, as rescuers reach remote villages.

There have been scores of aftershocks. Tonight, tens of thousands are huddled around fires, sleeping outdoors despite the cold — the fear, another strong quake will bring further tragedy to a region and to lives already in ruins.