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Survivors still being rescued from the rubble 11 days after Turkey earthquakes, but some in rebel-held Syria "have no hope left"

Man rescued in Turkey nearly 11 days after quake
Man rescued in Turkey nearly 11 days after earthquake 01:31

Rescuers have pulled a child, a woman and two men alive from the wreckage of buildings in Turkey almost 11 full days after devastating earthquakes hit the region. The massive 7.8-magnitude temblor and another powerful quake nine hours later destroyed thousands of buildings across southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 41,000 people.

In many places rescue efforts have given way to recovery efforts, but remarkable survival stories have continued to emerge from the rubble.

The latest came overnight as crews clearing debris in southern Turkey pulled Neslihan Kilic, a 29-year-old mother, from debris in the battered city of Kahramanmaras. She had been trapped for 258 hours, according to the independent DHA news agency. Then in Antakya, police found a 12-year-old boy alive in debris from which they also recovered 17 bodies.
"Just when our hopes were over, we reached our brother Osman at the 260th hour," police rescue team leader Okan Tosun told DHA, according to The Associated Press. Then, just an hour later, workers managed to reach two men under the crumbled remains of a collapsed hospital in Antakya.

Man rescued from under rubble more than 261 hours after Turkey earthquake 01:16

Mustafa Avci, one of those men, asked his rescuers if he could borrow a cell phone right after he emerged, still covered in dust. 

He immediately called his brother to ask about other family members. 

"Have they all survived?" he can be heard asking in video capture by news crews. "Let me hear their voices."

His wife gave birth to their child just hours before the quakes struck, and she and the child managed to escape unharmed from the hospital they were in, which was damaged by the temblors.  

Man rescued from rubble after 261 hours meets his 12-day-old daughter
Mustafa Avci, a man rescued from earthquake rubble after 261 hours in Antakya, Turkey, meets his 12-day-old baby at the hospital where he's being treated, February 17, 2023. Sezgin Pancar/Anadolu Agency/Getty

The rescue and recovery efforts have been even more painstaking across the border in Syria. The part of the country hit by the earthquakes sits largely in territory held by rebels in Syria's grueling 12-year civil war, and it took days for the government of dictator Bashar al-Assad to agree to open two additional border crossings from Turkey to let humanitarian materials flow in.

CBS News reached the Syrian quake zone this week and found that, amid the abject desperation, there were still people being found alive. Some of the survivors, however, have emerged to find little left of their previous lives.

From underneath the crumbled concrete and twisted metal of a building that was recently home to more than 1,000 people, Mustafa al-Mahrawy came out alive earlier this week. As many as 800 of his neighbors died.

He told CBS News he was trapped under the rubble with his wife and three children for more than 22 hours.

"I found a big rock and I hit as hard as I could and shouted 'I'm here! I'm here!'" he recalled. "We saw a light, and my kids started shouting 'daddy, daddy, light!'"

The moment al-Mahrawy and his wife and children were rescued was also caught on camera. It was a rare glimmer of hope in rebel-held Syria, however.

Desperate need for aid as death toll rises from Turkey-Syria earthquakes 05:15

The region already bore deep scars from the civil war when the earthquakes delivered even more death and destruction. So many people were killed by the temblors that farmland has been dug up for mass burials, but even that won't be enough for all the victims.

Now it's a race against time to help the living. CBS News found families displaced by the earthquakes sheltering in tents in an olive grove — another generation of Syrian children whose lives have been turned upside down.

The response to the disaster in Syria continues to be catastrophically slow, and many in the rebel-held north blame Assad. The president was recently seen greeting quake survivors in a loyalist area further south.

He still controls most of the country's borders, and the flow of aid across them. Western nations, including the U.S., have been wary of working with a regime they've sanctioned heavily over the war, which has seen Assad's forces and their allies kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.

It took immense pressure from the United Nations to convince the dictator to open the two additional land routes from Turkey for aid deliveries — eight long days after the quakes struck. It's a temporary concession, and they're set to close again in March, leaving just one border crossing from Turkey.

For Mustafa al-Mahrawy, who had already endured years of war before the earthquakes killed 20 members of his extended family, it's all too much.

"I have no hope left," he told CBS News. "I sometimes think it would have been better if I stayed under the rubble."

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