Turkey quake victim survives nearly 200 hours under rubble: 4 other 'miracle' survivor stories in history

As stories of remarkable rescues emerge from the wake of the disaster, here are more times when survivors overcame almost impossible circumstances and lived to tell the tale

By Web Desk

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Tue 14 Feb 2023, 1:56 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Feb 2023, 2:50 PM

In the days since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake – and a series of devastating aftershocks – besieged parts of Turkey and Syria on February 6, the rapidly mounting death toll has seemed to offer little hope of survivors. Families have been bracing for the inevitable scaling down of operations as low temperatures reduce the already slim chances of survival, and some Polish rescuers have announced they would leave on Wednesday.

In the shattered Syrian city of Aleppo, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said the rescue phase was "coming to a close", with the focus switching to shelter, food and schooling.

Despite the widespread carnage, however, stories of unbelievable survival have emerged from the wake of the disaster. From a newborn baby rescued from rubble, still tied by her umbilical cord to her mother, to two victims in the Kahramanmaraş province saved by an Emirati squad after being trapped under rubble for nearly 120 hours – these tales of unlikely survival have offered an aching, watching world a glimmer of hope, showing that even the worst of times can sometimes yield miracles.

In light of these astonishing rescues, here are 5 more stories of survivors who beat the odds; even after all hope was lost.

1. Boy and man rescued nearly 200 hours after earthquake

Following Turkey's worst earthquake in modern history, as hopes of finding many more survivors rapidly fade, a boy and a man were rescued in hard-hit Kahramanmaras early on Tuesday – a miraculous 198 hours, or just over 8 days, after the earthquake struck on Feb. 6.

Elsewhere in Kahramanmaras, rescuers were attempting to reach a grandmother, mother and daughter, all from one family, who appeared to have survived the quake and aftershock that killed more than 37,000 in Turkey and Syria.

2. Real-life 'Aquaman' survives tsunami by swimming for 24 hours

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

A powerful eruption on Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai, a submarine volcano in the southern Pacific Ocean, in December 2021 produced a series of four underwater thrusts, generating the largest atmospheric explosion ever recorded by modern instrumentation.

From the resultant tsunamis along the Pacific rim that killed at least 8 and injured 19 emerged one stunning story of a miracle survival – a 57-year-old man, unable to walk properly due to mobility issues affecting his legs, swam for more than 24 hours straight after being swept out to sea.

Tongan man Lisala Folau claims he was knocked back by a 20-foot high wave after the tsunami struck his island, adding that he went under nine times before latching onto a log and making it to safety.

Folau said he slowly managed to swim 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles) to the main island of Tongatapu, reaching the shore a whopping 27 hours later on Sunday night. His heroics went viral on social media, with one Facebook post calling him a “real life Aquaman”, referring to the comic book and film character.

3. Brother-sister duo survive for 10 days on crackers, water

In the days after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake that left almost 30,000 dead, a brother and sister were pulled alive from the wreckage a mind-boggling 10 days after the disaster. The duo, both in their fifties, was entombed in the rubble of the ground floor of their three-storey apartment, and survived on a small box of crackers and some water alone.

The pair was rescued from the flattened town of Bhuj when stunned rescuers heard two feeble voices coming from giant piles of debris.

Even more miraculously, neither brother nor sister were seriously injured.

4. 9-year-old boy saves self by clinging to drifting mattress

Some of the most incredible stories of survival from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed over 227,898 people – making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history – came from the children who lived to tell the tale.

A 9-year-old Kazakh boy at the Phuket Hospital in Thailand, known simply as Philip, was unable to breathe without tubes in his nose.

Despite this, the little boy was able to survive the devastating tsunami along with his brother – while the rest of his family were swept away – by lifting himself onto a drifting mattress, remaining there until he was retrieved by rescuers.

5. Colombia baker survives deadly mudslide by being awoken early


A survivor of a landslide in central Colombia which killed at least 16 people described how the early morning rush of mud and water tore him from his home, as local officials warned tens of thousands could still be at risk.

"It was about a quarter past six when it hit, my family was left trapped there," said survivor Alvaro Alzate, 62, whose father, brother, niece's child and neighbours were killed.

"The mud carried me into the street naked, I went down to the avenue in the mud," he said on Wednesday.

His brother had woken him early, Alzate said, which he believes saved his life.

"We're alive by a miracle," said the baker as he observed ongoing rescue operations with surviving relatives, his arms and legs covered in cuts and bruises from the landslide.


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