Members of the Portuguese team currently in the Hatay region of Turkey
Members of the Portuguese team currently in the Hatay region of Turkey. Image: João Relvas/ Lusa

10-year-old rescued by Portuguese Operational Force in Turkey

Success came on Day 3 of Portuguese search & rescue mission

The news was relayed over Twitter last night with a blurred photograph and lots of hashtags: on day three of the Portuguese search and rescue mission to earthquake hit Turkey, GNR specialists working in the Hatay region celebrated the exhilarating success of digging a 10 year old boy out alive from the rubble.

Picking up on the story, reports explain it was the first live victim for the team that arrived in Turkey last Wednesday evening.

The rescue itself took around three and a half hours, and saw secretarty of State Patrícia Gaspar tweet “there is no better reward” for the years of training and exercises that brought about such a happy outcome.

Mission commander José Guilherme told Lusa the moment where his team rescued the boy caused “great emotion” after so many days with nothing to celebrate.

The child was under a collapsed building in an area assigned to the 52-strong Portuguese team working with the help of sniffer dogs.

Locals apparently alerted the team to the fact that someone had ‘heard something’, and they put the dogs to work.

By this time, it was more than five full days since the quake that has already claimed upwards of 25,000 lives.

“The dogs gave signal that there was someone alive” under the shattered chunks of concrete and brick dust, and the painstaking work began, digging down to see whether there really was a human being surving under so much devastation.

The little boy was located in an air pocket within the rubble (see update below). A translator on hand was able to relay information.

Said José Guilherme: “A miracle happened, because hope is the last thing to die and so we will continue, in the hope that we can save more people”.

How long the team does stay in Turkey will depend on the situation on the ground which appears to be deteriorating. Local people are described as becoming ‘angry’ – angry with the fact that modern buildings that should have been constructed to earthquake standards collapsed like packs of cards (exposing less than exemplary building work and materials), and bitter that aid and basic supplies like tents and drinking water have taken too long to come through in many cases, or have already started running out.

International reports explain that some aid organisation have suspended rescue operations because the atmosphere is simply no longer ‘safe’ to work in.

Germany’s International Search and Rescue (ISAR) told Reuters news agency in an email cited by Sky News today: “There are increasing reports of clashes between different groups, and shots are said to have been fired.”

And with the desperate scale of this tragedy having already claimed so many lives, media outlets in Portugal have returned to the ‘old chestnut’ of ‘what if’ the country suffered an earthquake on a similar scale, as happened back in 1755 when large swathes of the country were devastated, and tidal waves battered both coastlines.

Expresso suggests that “half the buildings in Lisbon” are not earthquake resistant, while SIC reports that only 15% of buildings in the country have earthquake insurance.

The 7.8 (Richter Scale) earthquake that destroyed vast areas of Turkey and Syria at 4am on Monday was almost exactly the scale of the ‘Great Lisbon earthquake’ of 1755. It registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale, and was followed by various aftershocks, one of which was almost as devastating, registering 7.5. The Great Lisbon earthquake, which was felt throughout Portuguese territory and into Europe/ North Africa, was pegged at 7.7 on the Richter Scale.

UPDATE: Portuguese media has been following the story of this rescued child, whose name is Baran.

Baran lived with his parents and brother in the three-storey block of apartments under which he was found.

His father “accompanied rescue efforts”, say reports – but there is no information on whether Baran’s mother and brother are among survivors.

The little boy was transported to hospital and then airlifted by helicopter to a specialist unit in Istanbul.

Latest information is that he is ‘stable, and reunited with his father”.

President Marcelo has congratulated the Portuguese search and rescue team made up of 52 specialists from Civil Protection (5), GNR (26), Lisbon sapper-firefighters (15) and INEM (6). The team, accompanied by six sniffer dogs, arrived in Turkey on Wednesday late at night.

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