Home / News / World /  Turkey Earthquake: How long people can survive in quake debris? Experts explain

Turkey-Syria Earthquake: Days passed, but search and rescue operation still continues to look for victims in debris after five back-to-back devastating earthquakes killed more than 15,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Many countries including Japan, the US, Britain, India, Germany, and others have sent their search teams to quake-hit countries for help and assistance. 

Many people are being pulled alive from the debris since the disaster took place, however, the question arises that how long people can survive in the rubble of an earthquake. Experts predicted the possibility of survival for up to a week or more, depending on their injuries and weather conditions. 

According to disaster medicine experts, most rescues occur in the first 24 hours after the earthquake. After day one, survival chances drop as each day passed. Access to water, air, and weather conditions are crucial factors for survival, The Associated Press reported. 

Temperatures in the quake-stricken Turkish city of Gaziantep plunged to minus five degrees Celsius early Thursday but thousands of families spent the night in cars and makeshift tents -- too scared or banned from returning to their homes.

Dr. Jarone Lee, an emergency and disaster medicine expert at Massachusetts General Hospital said, "It is rare to find survivors after the fifth to seventh days, and most search and rescue teams will consider stopping by then. But, there are many stories of people surviving well past the seven-day mark. Unfortunately, these are usually rare and extraordinary cases.''

“People with traumatic injuries, including crush injuries and limb amputations, face the most critical survival window," said Dr. George Chiampas, an emergency medicine specialist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg medical school.

“If you don’t pull them out in one hour, in that golden hour, there’s really a very low chance of survival. Those with other illnesses, whose health depends on medications, also face grim chances," he said as quoted by AP. 

Apart from weather conditions along with air and water, experts said that age and physical and mental condition are also important factors for the survival of people stuck under the debris of an earthquake

Dr. Christopher Colwell, an emergency medicine specialist at the University of California, San Francisco said, "You see a lot of different scenarios where we’ve had some really miraculous saves and people have survived under horrible conditions. They tend to be younger people and have been fortunate enough to find either a pocket in the rubble or some way to access needed elements like air and water.''

Chiampas noted that mental state can also affect survival. He said that people trapped next to bodies who have no contact with other survivors or rescuers may give up hope, according to the news agency AP. 

“If you have someone who is alive, you’re leaning on each other to keep fighting,’’ he added.

This Monday, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 centered in the Pazarcik district jolted Kahramanmaras and hit several provinces, including Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis.

Later in the day, an earthquake of 7.6 magnitudes centered in Kahramanmaras's Elbistan district jolted the region. The earthquake was also felt in several neighboring countries, including Lebanon and Syria. The third earthquake of magnitude 6.0 on the Richter scale hit Goksun, Turkey. The countries were then hit by two more earthquakes of magnitude 5.5 and 5.7 on Tuesday. 


(With AP inputs)

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