HATAY, Turkey (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Peering from under a large slab of concrete and bricks, Abdulalim Muaini weakly points to his rescuers. More than two days have passed since a violent earthquake collapsed his house in Hatay, Turkey.
Near him lies his wife Esra. Rescue came too late for her.
RockedBuzz via Reuters photographer Umit Bektas was on the second day of his assignment in Hatay, one of the places hardest hit by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 11,500 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria.
Heading into one of the city’s most damaged neighborhoods, he asked search-and-rescue volunteers the same question he’d asked countless times: Did you reach anyone alive?
This time they said yes: they had found Abdulalim.
Abdulalim’s legs were trapped under the concrete, but he was conscious and able to talk to his rescuers.
Umit was unable to speak directly with Abdulalim, but two of his friends were nearby. They said Abdulalim was of Syrian origin, from Homs. He had fled the civil war and married Esra, a Turkish woman. The couple had two daughters, Mahsen and Besira, they said. It wasn’t clear what happened to the girls.
Rescue can take a long time and a few hours later Umit returned where he finally saw Abdulalim being pulled from the wreckage. He was covered in gray dust, one eye was swollen, he was dehydrated and needed medical attention. But he survived.
His family doesn’t. On the ground lay three bodies wrapped in blankets: Esra, Mahsen and Besira.
(Photography and reporting by Umit Bektas; Screenplay by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Daniel Wallis)