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Turkey earthquake: Two men rescued from rubble 261 hours later, official says

Earthquake in Türkiye
Riza Ozel / dia images via Getty Images

(LONDON) — Nearly 11 days after a massive earthquake and powerful aftershocks rocked southeastern Turkey, two men trapped beneath the rubble have been rescued as the odds of finding survivors diminish by the hour.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca posted about the rescues on Twitter, saying both men were pulled alive from the ruins of a collapsed building in hard-hit Hatay province on Thursday evening, 261 hours after the quake.

Mustafa Avci, 33, was rescued first, according to Koca. After initial treatment at a field hospital, Avci was allowed to call a relative whose telephone number he remembered. The health minister tweeted video of the emotional exchange, in which Avci is seen wearing a neck brace and lying on a stretcher as he speaks into a mobile phone held by a rescuer. Avci can be heard asking about his mother and the rest of their family as the man on the other end cries in disbelief. Avci then kisses the hand of the rescuer holding the phone and thanks him.

Mehmet Ali Sakiroglu, 26, was rescued soon after, according to Koca. Sakiroglu was assessed at the field hospital before being transported to the Mustafa Kemal University Hospital in Antakya, where he remains for treatment, Koca said. The health minister tweeted a photo of first responders bringing Sakiroglu into the hospital on a stretcher.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the region before dawn on Feb. 6 and was followed by hundreds of aftershocks. The quake’s epicenter was in Turkey’s southeastern Kahramanmaras province, not far from the border with Syria. Thousands of buildings were toppled on both sides, according to Turkish and Syrian officials.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria has continued to rise in the days since, reaching 42,000 on Thursday, according to combined figures from both countries.

Although most rescues happen within the first 24 hours after a natural disaster, experts told ABC News that people can survive for up to a week or more while trapped under fallen debris depending on several factors, including weather conditions, the extent of their injuries and whether they have access to air and water.

ABC News’ Kerem Inal and Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.

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