ERCIS, Turkey (Reuters) - Emrullah Toprak was at home when an earthquake tore through his town in eastern Turkey and sent the 6-storey block of flats crashing to the ground.
Giant slabs of concrete that once served as the building’s floors now lie stacked on top of each other -- all that is left of his family’s home.
Mangled metal reinforcement poles dangle from the collapsed concrete walls and sway with every aftershock. Rubble and brick dust skids down the destroyed building, blocking the road below.
That anyone could survive such devastation is difficult to fathom, but 20-year-old Toprak did just that.
Some 27 hours after Sunday’s 7.2 magnitude quake struck, killing at least 279 people and injuring more than 1,300, Toprak was lifted to safety.
Toprak’s father, dressed in the dark green suit he went out in before the quake struck, stood next to the cavity in which his son was buried under tons of concrete.
He never gave up hope.
“My son, my son, don’t give up!” he shouted as exhausted rescue workers painstakingly removed concrete bit by bit.
“They are going to save you, don’t give up. I‘m going to take you to the best hospital there is,” he shouted.
A civilian rescue team arrived only two hours after the quake from the nearby city of Elazig and worked night and day.
As the sun began to set over Ercis, one of the hardest hit towns, the rescue team scrambled to make use of every last bit of natural light.
Similar dramatic search operations for hundreds feared dead were underway across Ercis and in the city of Van, 100 km (60 miles) to the south, but Toprak was among the lucky ones.
As word of his rescue broke in the area, crowds formed at the bottom of the building filming the scene with their mobile phones. Some crawled up the rubble to have a closer look.
“Get down, get down,” yelled one rescue worker. “The floors are collapsing. Get down!”
Toprak’s father then stood up.
“For the love of God, please get down,” he begged.
Minutes later, rescuers dragged Toprak’s crushed body from his concrete hole onto a stretcher and into a waiting ambulance.
His dust-covered body lay motionless as the rescuers carried him precariously down the rubble slope, to the applause of a jubilant crowd.
Half way down, Toprak opened his eyes -- the first light he had seen in more than a day.
Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia and Louise Ireland