A family of six was pulled out alive after 101 hours under the rubble in Iskenderun, southern Turkey. A family was rescued from the debris of a collapsed building on Friday morning, in the Hatay region, one of the worst-hit areas in Turkey. A 17-year-old was saved in Gaziantep, 94 hours after the first of Monday’s deadly earthquakes.

Friday morning brought glimmers of hope across a devastated landscape spanning the two sides of the Turkey-Syria border, as volunteers and workers pulled off seemingly miraculous rescues.

The rare successes came even as Turkey crossed a grim milestone: Its death toll from the earthquakes reached 18,991, surpassing the number of people lost to the powerful 1999 temblor that had shaken and scarred the nation. In total, Monday’s two earthquakes of magnitudes 7.8 and 7.6, and hundreds of other powerful aftershocks, have killed more than 22,000 people and turned entire neighborhoods into debris in southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria.

The grim figure keeps rising as rescue workers continue their frantic search operations for a fifth consecutive day amid freezing temperatures and damaged infrastructure.

“Rescuers are on the way with heavy machinery still hoping to reach some of them – dead or alive,” said Al Jazeera correspondent Resul Serdar, reporting from a site of collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, the closest city to the epicenter of the first earthquake. “But they are getting a bit desperate here and tensions are high,” he said.

It is a prolonged tragedy for those who survived — but they do not know whether their loved ones will. “My dears are burning under the rubble,” a Kahramanmaras resident told Al Jazeera, holding back tears.

Turkey’s disaster-management agency said more than 110,000 personnel were taking part in the rescue effort with the assistance of more than 5,500 vehicles, including tractors, cranes, bulldozers, and excavators.

However, criticism against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over the lack of a quick response to the tragedy is mounting.

“Why haven’t we learned anything? Why haven’t the authorities assessed the structures well enough? Why did authorities allow such weak structures?” Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu said, citing people’s doubts.

Source: Aljazeera.com