It’s been a week since two powerful earthquakes – one measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale and the other 7.5 – shook Turkey and Syria, killing thousands of people. But in the midst of despair, some miracles happen.
When Necla Camuz gave birth to her second son on January 27, she named him Yagiz, which means “brave.” We first wrote about their escape here.
Just 10 days later, at 04:17 local time, Necla was awake at her home in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, feeding her newborn son. A few moments later, both of them were buried under the rubble, the BBC reported.
Necla and her family lived on the second floor of a modern five-story building in the city of Samandağ. According to the woman, she felt safe in her home and had no idea that the neighborhood could be completely destroyed by earthquakes.
“When the earthquake started, I wanted to go to my husband, who was in the other room, and he also started walking towards me,” the woman said. “But when he tried to come to me with our other son, the cupboard fell on them and they couldn’t move. As the earthquake intensified, the walls fell, the room shook, and the entire building shook. When it was over, I didn’t realize at first that I had fallen on the floor. I shouted the names of my husband and my son, but they didn’t answer.”
The 33-year-old mother was lying on the floor when she regained consciousness, still holding her newborn son. A cabinet that tipped right next to them saved their lives, preventing a large slab of concrete from falling on them.
The woman and her little son remained trapped in the ruins of the building for almost four days.
The first day of the nightmare
Necla, dressed in her pajamas, could only see complete darkness under the rubble, so she had to rely on her other senses to assess her situation.
To her relief, she quickly found that Yagiz was still breathing. At first, the woman found it difficult to breathe because of the dust, but then she began to calm down. It was warm in the ruins of the building, and she felt like she was lying on a child’s toy, but she couldn’t control it or get into a more comfortable position.
Apart from the clothes on her and his son’s skin, all she could feel was concrete and rubble. She heard voices in the distance, so she tried to shout, banging on the cabinet next to her. “Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?” she shouted.
When she didn’t get an answer, Necla picked up the small pieces of debris that had fallen next to her and banged the cupboard with them to see if anyone heard, but this time there was no answer either. It was then that she realized that maybe no one would come to save her and her son. “I was terrified,” she explained.
Survival under the ruins
the darkness beneath the ruins, Necla lost track of time. “You plan so much when your baby is born, and then all of a sudden you find yourself in the ruins,” she recalled. However, despite her desperate situation, she was aware that she had to take care of Yagiz. She managed to breastfeed the baby, but since she herself had no access to food or drink, she tried in desperation to drink her own breast milk – unsuccessfully.
At one point, Necla heard footsteps and voices, but only faintly, which meant that the rescue teams were still far away, so she decided to conserve her energy and remain silent.
The woman was thinking about her family all the while. Although her newborn son was by her side, her husband and other son were also somewhere among the ruins. At the same time, she was worried about other loved ones and wondered what might have happened to them.
For a long time, Necla did not believe that she would get out from under the ruins, but because of Yagiz, she persevered and tried to keep hoping. Her little boy slept most of the time, and when he occasionally woke up crying, she quietly fed him until he calmed down.
The moment of salvation
Necla and her little son spent more than 90 hours among the ruins. Eventually she heard dogs barking and human voices, but at first she thought she was dreaming. “Are you okay? Knock once if you do,” said an alien voice. “Which apartment do you live in?” they asked her.
The rescue teams carefully dug her out of the rubble while the woman held her baby close to her. The darkness was suddenly broken by the light of a flashlight. When the rescue team from the Istanbul Fire Department asked how old her son was, Necla wasn’t quite sure how to answer because she didn’t know how much time had passed. All she knew was that he was 10 days old at the time of the earthquake.
After handing Yagiz over to the paramedics, they put her on a stretcher and took her to the ambulance. On the way, they seemed to be passing a larger crowd, but Necla didn’t recognize any faces.
While the paramedics treated her, the mother asked them if they had managed to save her other son.
Life after tragedy
When she arrived at the hospital, Necla was greeted by several relatives who told her that her husband, Irfan, and her 3-year-old son, Yigit Kerim, had also been successfully rescued from the rubble. But the man and the boy were taken to another hospital in Adana province as they suffered serious injuries.
Miraculously, Necla and Yagiz were not seriously injured and were released from the hospital after 24 hours of observation. Necla had no home to return to, but one of her relatives took her to a makeshift tent made of pieces of wood and a tarp, where a total of thirteen people sheltered as they had all lost their homes.
In the tent, Necla and her relatives support each other. They make coffee on a small stove, play chess, and tell each other stories. The woman tries to come to terms with what happened and says that she owes Yagiz her survival. “I think if my little boy hadn’t been strong enough to get through this, I wouldn’t have been able to,” she said.
The mother’s only wish is for her son to never have to go through anything like this again. “I’m very happy that he’s just a newborn and he won’t remember anything,” she added.
Now that her husband and older son are better, they called Necla from the hospital, waving and smiling, and the mother also smiled and asked if “her warriors” were there.