Huseyin Berber’s voice was hoarse from calling for help from under the rubble of his home, but he was finally freed more than a week after Turkey’s massive earthquake, defying the odds for survival and one of several remarkable stories to emerge.
Doctors say people can last, even without water, for days. But there are so many variables - what injuries were sustained in a building collapse and how hot or cold is it outside - that rescuers say anything after five days is miraculous.
Berber, a 62-year-old diabetic, survived 187 hours after the walls of his ground floor flat were propped up by a fridge and a cabinet, leaving him an armchair to sit in and a rug to keep him warm.
He had a single bottle of water, and when that ran out, drank his own urine.
Berber was speaking from a bed at Mersin City Hospital, some 250 km from the 15-story building that collapsed in the city of Antakya in southern Hatay province, where half the buildings were either destroyed or heavily damaged. He was admitted on Tuesday.
He said he had been surrounded by relatives in different rooms in his apartment, all of whom he believes managed to survive.
“In a second tremor, the ceiling collapsed, but it did not touch me. I immediately crouched, sat down. The wall fell over on to fridge and the cabinet. I was stuck there. There was a rug. I took that and put it over me... I saw there was an armchair, I climbed over it took the rug and sat there.
“I shouted, I called, but no one was there…I was a little relieved when I heard the sounds on top of the wreckage, but my throat was swollen as I kept shouting.”
He said he found his diabetes medicine and a bottle of water on the floor.
“An hour later, I took (the water bottle) and drank it. Apologies, I peed in it and let it rest. I drank it when it got cold. I saved myself with that.”
Deniz Gezer, internal medicine specialist at Mersin City Hospital, said one of the biggest problems for survival was the cold.
As for drinking urine, Gezer said it was not recommended since it is a toxic substance, and it doesn’t meet human water needs.
Berber, in his hospital bed, surrounded by beeping machines, said he thought no one would save him until he heard the sound of rescuers.
“Someone reached their hand out and it met with my hand. After that, they pulled me out from there.”
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