Not far from Turkey’s city of Kahramanmaras is the coastal town of Iskenderun, a busy port that’s been crippled by the earthquake and subsequent fires.
The town came together with the mission to rescue one family.
The life that is left here is barely holding on. People are running on survival instinct and they’re praying those they’re searching for have managed to last this long too.
“It’s like a judgement day. How can I express? How can I say?” one person said.
Every living being in Iskenderun is disorientated and in shock.
Resident Kadel was asleep on the fourth storey of an apartment block when the earthquake hit.
He and his wife were the only ones who made it out.
“My neighbours, children, dead. Dead dead dead. My family, my family, three dead,” he said.
One of his daughters lives in England, he said he’ll never forget that post-quake call.
“Father father father father father what’s happening?” his daughter said on the call.
Iskenderun was the home she grew up in.
On Friday (local time) with electricity slowly being restored she was able to video call to see it for herself.
When Newshub said “you must have been so worried about your father”, she said “this is the first time I’ve seen him since”.
If only everyone was so lucky to be reunited with the face they miss the most.
“Right, where the purple blanket is, that’s their bedroom,” one person said.
Three broken doors down Alixa who is pregnant with twins is waiting for her in-laws to be pulled from the rubble.
The rescue mission is a noisy one with sirens, diggers and grunts of determination.
But the whisper of a miracle cuts through it all. There is talk of a survivor at the site across the road and everyone rushes towards it.
When Newshub asks how many people they think are alive at the site, someone shouts out: “Four – mum, dad and the children.”
After the frenzy of the morning search, there is indescribable energy where things are very quiet.
Eighty-four hours after the earthquake hit, a man in his fifties named Oscar is carried out and away from his concrete prison.
The adrenaline surges through the group as he is placed on the stretcher, and the group erupts in applause.
It’s a feeling the country has been starved of this week – pure elation.
“I’m very happy,” one rescuer said.
Oscar’s paramedic assured Newshub he would be okay.
“It’s a miracle,” one person told Newshub.
When Newshub asked him long they were with Oscar in the rubble, they said “three days”.
But the rescue is not over yet. No one has forgotten there were meant to be four people rescued.
Rescuers listen for the sound of life. The traffic halts. The sirens switch off. Machinery stalls. In seconds, the busy city falls silent.
You can almost hear the heartbeats of hope but there is no answer, only silence in return.
Oscar has survived to live a life without those he used to live for.
The city of Iskenderun has been brought to its knees. The pockets of jubilation that rescuers experience when they find someone alive is only so short-lived, because everywhere else they look there are towering reminders of just how much has been lost.
The strength of humanity is on full display, a loaf of bread buys a smile, the hugs are given for free.