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Teen rescued from Turkey quake rubble, as government eyes lax building construction

A teen was pulled from the Turkish quake rubble early Friday morning. Meanwhile, concerns are rising over subpar building construction, which contributed to the quake's toll and is ongoing.

Ferhat Tokay, a 13-year old earthquake survivor, rests at a hospital after being rescued in the eastern Turkish city of Van on Oct. 28.

Ahmet Izgi/Anadolu Agency/Reuters

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Rescue workers on Friday pulled a teenage boy alive from rubble five days after an 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Turkey.

As cold weather and snow moved into the quake's epicenter at the town of Ercis, Ferhat Tokay, 13, became the latest of 187 people to be freed from rubble and debris. He was trapped for 108 hours underneath the building that collapsed on the ground-floor shoe shop where he worked. He survived by making more room for himself in the rubble.

So far, the quake has claimed the lives of 570 people and injured 2,500.

"When the earthquake happened, he made a small space, and made a pillow with shoes," Sahin Tokay, the uncle of the rescued boy, told the Monitor by telephone from Ercis. "The first day he was hungry; the rest of those days he didn't feel anything."

The young man drank rainwater to survive, and created a gap in the rubble to tell night from day.

As more international aid arrives in the remote area populated by ethnic Kurds, rescue teams have largely shifted from searching for survivors to recovering the dead.

By the early hours of Friday morning, the family had lost hope, and "cried and screamed," recalled Mr. Tokay, the uncle. Rescue workers were giving up, but he said he had a feeling that his nephew was still alive – and asked for one more chance to look.

"The minute [Ferhat] saw me, he gave a big smile to me," says the uncle. The family has mixed emotions about their ordeal, which is shared by so many in eastern Turkey as winter sets in.

"We are feeling half happy and half sad, because my local family is dead, they are under buildings and underground, we don't know if they are alive or dead," says Tokay. "So we are only a little bit happy."

Turkish leaders have acknowledged a slow response and "mistakes" made in handling the aftermath of the temblor – including their initial rejection of offers from abroad of support and emergency gear.

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