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In Turkey, a mother tries to save a son trapped in the rubble

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And let's go now to NPR's Ruth Sherlock, who's in the southern Turkish city of Antakya.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Driving into Antakya now. We're just passing - building after building is flattened. One of the city's hospitals is literally on its side. The building's tilted, broken rubble all around it, windows smashed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)

SHERLOCK: There are civilians digging through the rubble. There's just simply too many flattened buildings for emergency services to get to. So it's the civilians that are left to dig for their loved ones.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

HAMIDEH MANSUROGLU: (Speaking Turkish).

SHERLOCK: Hamideh Mansuroglu is in front of a half-collapsed building. She says her son, 42-year-old Sedat, is trapped inside. When she couldn't reach him on the phone the morning of the earthquake, she and her other son, Ayham (ph), ran over to his home there.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking Turkish).

ERIN O'BRIEN: They found him yesterday.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking Turkish).

SHERLOCK: Who found him?

O'BRIEN: They found him.

SHERLOCK: You found him.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking Turkish).

SHERLOCK: Oh, my God. How did she find him?

O'BRIEN: His brother dug with his hands to find him.

SHERLOCK: She says they found him trapped on what was the fourth floor of the building that has pancaked in on itself. And he's still alive. I'm with Erin O'Brien, a freelance journalist here for The Economist, who helps me translate.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking Turkish).

O'BRIEN: Yesterday morning, she said, could you move your foot if you can hear me?

SHERLOCK: And he moved it?

O'BRIEN: Well...

SHERLOCK: Rescuers and volunteers tried to get him out but didn't have the right equipment. Now more than 36 hours later, men have come with an excavator to try to free him.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXCAVATOR PUSHING RUBBLE)

SHERLOCK: Chunks of concrete are being bashed away near where Sedat is, and his mother is clearly terrified. But all she can do is watch.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking in Turkish, crying).

SHERLOCK: Every time the bulldozer gets close to where her son is, she winces in pain, watching and, like, begging them to go gently and go carefully. But the reality is that to try to reach him, they have to remove this thick layer of concrete. But in doing that, they might well crush him.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking in Turkish).

SHERLOCK: "What do you doing?" she shouts, hands to her head.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

SHERLOCK: They stopped digging. They're going to go climb into the space where they think he might be. It's incredibly dangerous 'cause the whole building could collapse even on top of the rescue workers.

(Whispering) They're telling everybody to be silent - try to hear for signs of life at this point.

They might have found him. But if that's the case, it's not good news. They've turned away, and they're walking back. Look like they're going to talk to the mother now.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking in Turkish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking in Turkish).

MANSUROGLU: (Crying).

SHERLOCK: The mother's fallen to her knees, weeping, sobbing.

MANSUROGLU: (Speaking in Turkish, crying).

SHERLOCK: Here comes the body in a - wrapped in a blanket - carrying him in a blanket towards his mom and his family.

They gather around him, and we give them the privacy to mourn. We decide to move further into the city.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

SHERLOCK: We're close to the center now. The road is blocked, cars turned back. So we're going to walk. Some people are walking out of the city with possessions in plastic bags, others just walking down the middle of the road in tears, lost. This earthquake happened in the dead of night here. Most people were in their beds sleeping. We can only begin to imagine how many people are under the rubble. (Coughing) So much dust and debris. One, two, three, four, five, six - six bodies lying on the street in front of a building - nobody is around - just left on the side here.

UNIDENTIFIED RESCUE WORKER: (Speaking Turkish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Turkish).

UNIDENTIFIED RESCUE WORKER: (Speaking Turkish).

SHERLOCK: A rescue worker nearby says he thinks the dead are a Syrian family. This city is close to the border with Syria, where there's a war. So there are thousands of refugees here. He says this part of the city is so destroyed that few are likely to survive.

Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Antakya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.