In the wasteland that scars the centre of Kahramanmaras in Turkey, we watched a pair of rescuers perched in a digger’s scoop as they investigated a great pile of concrete.
Their mobile bucket took them up into the sky as they probed a toppled building. No one had checked this spot before.
It is not surprising however.
In Kahramanmaras, more than 200 buildings have been destroyed by the earthquakes and tremors.
“Is anyone in there? If you can hear me tap on the wall,” said a rescuer.
“No, no one.”
Local officials face a difficult dilemma. Tens of thousands have been displaced by the disaster with many now sleeping in plastic tents or self-constructed dwellings on the roadside.
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The climate is harsh, particularly at night, and the authorities need to clear the rubble and begin the process of rebuilding.
But there is a conflicting demand – a moral obligation to search for survivors – and this is a necessarily skilled and time-consuming process.
At what used to be the Elbrar apartment block, we met a multi-national rescue team trying to release a woman called Leyla from deep beneath the pile.
And they’d been working all night to release her.
We spoke to an Italian rescuer called Gianluca Pesce, an engineer who was volunteering on the site.
“We’ve opened one corridor inside, a corridor (that is) like 50cm square, very small, just enough for one person. I went inside, through the tunnel for about seven metres. We start to call to her, she answered but her voice is weak.”
The rescuers, led by members of Israel’s national search and rescue unit, had spent 24 hours trying to reach her from the side and the top of the building. They had already managed to free the woman’s husband and daughter but Leyla was in a particularly difficult position.
“It’s going to take a long time,” said Mr Pesce.
Sometimes, a rescue is conducted in a matter of few minutes.
While we filmed at the Elbrar building, word spread about another emergency. Just 100 metres from where we were standing, a survivor had been located beneath the remains of an 11-storey block.
An excavator driver called Selmir Gizet told us he had been clearing the pile when he heard a strange sound from the rubble. He decided to raise the alarm.
Shortly afterwards, a man called Gohkan was dragged out of a hole and placed on a stretcher.
His feet were blistered and frost-bitten and his face was lacerated – we saw a large indentation on his forehead.
But he was alive, managing to survive more than four days underground.
“God is great” shouted the crowd, “God is great”.
With tears flowing down his cheeks, one rescuer told us: “I had a dream that I would find a man. We worked together as a team and put all efforts into rescuing him. God save him, I hope he survives.”
Back at the Elbrar block, the search and rescuers were looking for Leyla but they told us there had been an important development.
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Leyla’s voice may have belonged to her son – the pair were lying together in the boy’s room when the earthquake struck.
“We were looking for a woman, we know there are a woman and child inside and when we came closer, it became apparent that we were talking to the child,” said search and rescue paramedic, Jonathan Rousso.
“The team have got to the point where they are on the other side of the wall, but they can’t cut (the wall), and there is a washing machine (in the way). You can’t cut through the washing machine. You have to find a way, so we are digging deeper.”
The operation was dangerous, and with frequent tremors their tunnels were at risk of collapse. We saw team members dash into the remains of a local shop, looking for timber and screws to prop up their underground channels.
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Over the course of an agonising evening, rescue team members managed to reach the boy.
He told them his name was Ridvan, Leyla’s nine-year-old son.
A doctor tried to stabilise him down below but there were serious concerns about his condition. The decision was made to get him out.
On the surface, the volunteers called for quiet, for fear of alarming the boy, and Ridvan was carried on a stretcher through a concrete hole. He was greeted to the sound of whispers from the crowd that had grown to several hundred.
He had spent nearly five days underground, in the arms of his mother. He was cold and badly dehydrated and part of his body had been crushed. The paramedics sped him to hospital.
Unfortunately, his mother Leyla did not survive, the rescue team unable to rescue her in time.
A national catastrophe and a family’s tragedy in a city marked by sorrow.