Turkish rescuers pull 5-year-old girl from rubble, death toll climbs to 10

Rescue workers on Thursday pulled a five-year-old girl from the rubble of an eight-story apartment building in Istanbul, 18 hours after it collapsed and killed 10 people.

A crowd of onlookers cheered “God is great!” as the girl, Havva Tekgoz, was carried on a stretcher to the ambulance. Overnight, a 9-year-old-boy was also found, bringing the total count of rescued to 13 so far.

A top Turkish official says emergency teams are still on the ground and still “receiving sounds”, suggesting others could be trapped under the rubble and are working to other possible survivors.

The building, located in the mostly residential Kartal district, on the Asian side of the city had 14 apartments with 43 people registered residents.

Resident Cemile Dag said the collapse brought to mind haunting images from a deadly earthquake that hit northwestern Turkey in 1999, destroying thousands of homes.

“At first I thought a gas tank had exploded in our building. I looked behind me and the building, like a deck of cards, fell to the ground. There were wails, screaming,” she said.

Dag added: “People are gone… Just like that disaster during the earthquake, this is the same.”

Experts from the Istanbul branch of the chamber of civil engineers who visited the site concluded that the “load-bearing columns had lost the capacity to carry the weight” of the building, the group said in a statement Thursday.

Experts from the Istanbul branch of the chamber of civil engineers who visited the site concluded that the “load-bearing columns had lost the capacity to carry the weight” of the building, the group said in a statement Thursday. (REUTERS)

Officials have said the building’s top three floors were built illegally, although the cause of the collapse is still under investigation.

Experts from the Istanbul branch of the chamber of civil engineers who visited the site concluded that the “load-bearing columns had lost the capacity to carry the weight” of the building, the group said in a statement Thursday.

A majority of buildings in Istanbul are “either unlicensed, illegal or were constructed without any engineering services,” the group added.

“You don’t need to be a civil engineer to guess (the result) of a probable earthquake,” it said. “Such disasters will continue.”

That group and others have strongly criticized a government amnesty for illegal constructions that was introduced last year to bolster the ruling party ahead of elections.

Can Akin, of the Chamber of Geology Engineers, told The Associated Press that many buildings in Istanbul were built without an adequate investigation of the ground conditions.

“Istanbul is situated on a seismic belt,” Akin said. “In the event of an earthquake in Istanbul, we could be faced with a dire picture.”

In August, Turkey’s emergency management agency, AFAD, warned that up to 30,000 people could be killed in Istanbul if a magnitude-7.5 earthquake were to hit the city of 15 million.

In August, Turkey’s emergency management agency, AFAD, warned that up to 30,000 people could be killed in Istanbul if a magnitude-7.5 earthquake were to hit the city of 15 million.

In August, Turkey’s emergency management agency, AFAD, warned that up to 30,000 people could be killed in Istanbul if a magnitude-7.5 earthquake were to hit the city of 15 million. (Reuters)

The agency estimated 50,000 people could be critically injured and 44,802 buildings could collapse. Some 2.4 million people would be left homeless.

On Thursday, Murat Kurum, the environment and urbanization minister, acknowledged that several other buildings in the vicinity had seven, nine or 10 floors — despite receiving permits for just five.

“Provincial authorities are in the process of identifying them and … action will be taken against buildings that carry risks,” he said. “Our citizens’ lives and property are of paramount importance.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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