‘We finally saw her hand’: Hungarian rescuer recalls saving girl after Turkey earthquake
BUDAPEST — For Viktor Holczer, a Hungarian IT expert, Turkey was the first major rescue mission in which he took part as a volunteer. And he will always remember the moment when he grabbed the hand of 17-year-old Asya, rescued from the rubble almost four days after last week’s quake.
As part of the Hungarian team of Caritas Hungary and Budapest Rescue Service, the 26-year-old Holczer said the task of getting to the girl under a collapsed apartment block in the Turkish town of Kahramanmaras seemed almost impossible.
Locals had told the rescuers that someone was trapped. Rescuers climbed inside and indeed heard a voice shouting for help. Israeli rescuers helped the Hungarians with specialist equipment, which showed where Asya was.
It took about eight hours to finally lift her out on a stretcher, after rescuers had dug a narrow channel under the rubble.
“At each and every step, our heartbeat quickened as we felt we were one step closer to finally reaching her,” Holczer recalled in an interview with Reuters on the team’s arrival home at Budapest’s international airport.
“We finally saw her hand. And it took another 15 minutes to get within an arm’s reach from her, and then I stretched out and managed to grab her hand.”
Holczer immediately let the team outside know and heard loud cheering.
Then they had to gradually widen the hole to allow the girl to be carefully lifted out. She had spent almost four days in complete darkness under the ruins, without food or water.
“We had to shift her body in our hands on the first section as a stretcher could not fit… then we managed to put her on a stretcher,” Holczer said.
The 7.8 magnitude Feb. 6 quake and aftershock have killed more than 37,000 in Turkey and Syria.
According to the rescue team, Asya said she had been watching TV with her family on the day the quake shook. It was a cold day so she had wrapped herself in a blanket and curled up on the sofa – which helped protect her from the cold under the rubble later.