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I survived eight days under earthquake rubble by drinking my own urine: Turkish grandfather, 62, reveals incredible battle to stay alive in collapsed building
- Hüseyin Berber escaped being crushed when his ceiling was held up by a fridge
- He urinated into his empty water bottle and drunk his pee while he was trapped
A grandfather has told how he survived nearly eight days buried in the rubble of his home after Turkey’s devastating earthquake – by drinking his own urine.
Hüseyin Berber, 62, escaped being instantly crushed to death when the ceiling of his ground floor apartment crashed down around him and was held up by a fridge and a cabinet.
He was left sitting in an armchair in the pitch darkness in the ruins of the 15 storey block of flats where he lived with his family.
Hüseyin, who is diabetic, told how he fumbled around in the dark and found a single bottle of water which he drank in his crushed home in Antakya in Turkey’s southern Hatay province.
He became dehydrated and his throat parched and hoarse as he repeatedly shouted out in the hope of alerting rescuers after the water ran out.
Hüseyin Berber, 62, escaped being instantly crushed to death when the ceiling of his ground floor apartment crashed down around him and was held up by a fridge and a cabinet
Medical staff have repeatedly told Hüseyin that his survival against the odds was ‘a miracle’ after he was taken to recover at the City Hospital in Mersin
Hüseyin said he finally hit on the idea of urinating into his empty water bottle, and then waiting for his pee to cool down before drinking it.
He also managed to pick up a rug and wrapped it around himself to stay warm as night time temperatures plunged below freezing in the city where more than half the homes collapsed.
Five other members of his family including his son and grandchildren escaped unharmed by fleeing outside as the earthquake struck just after 4am on Monday last week.
Hüseyin sipped his urine until early on Tuesday this week when rescuers finally dug their way into his underground tomb and saved him after he had been trapped for 187 hours.
Medical staff have repeatedly told him that his survival against the odds was ‘a miracle’ after he was taken to recover at the City Hospital in Mersin.
Speaking of his ordeal from his hospital bed, he told how his relatives had been asleep in different rooms in his apartment when they were woken by their home shaking.
He said: ‘When the earthquake hit, I immediately stood up. My grandchild was sleeping next to me. I looked around, my son turned on a light, took a flashlight and said, ‘Father, it’s an earthquake!’
‘In a second tremor, the ceiling collapsed, but it did not hit me. I immediately crouched and sat down. The wall fell over on to fridge and the cabinet. I was stuck there.
Hüseyin, who is diabetic, told how he fumbled around in the dark and found a single bottle of water which he drank in his crushed home in Antakya in Turkey’s southern Hatay province
Hüseyin said he finally hit on the idea of urinating into his empty water bottle, and then waiting for his pee to cool down before drinking it
An excavator digs through pules of rubble in Antakya city in Hatay, Turkey, February 17, 2023
‘There was a rug. I took that and put it over me … I saw there was an armchair. I climbed over it took the rug and sat there.
‘I shouted, shouted and shouted. No one could hear me. I shouted so much that my throat hurt. Our son, I think took out the kids.
READ MORE: Boy, 14, two men and a mother of two are found alive under earthquake rubble after nearly ELEVEN DAYS as death toll from Turkey-Syria disaster passes 43,000
‘When I heard no sound from them, I realised that they were saved.’
Hüseyin said he found his diabetes medicine and a bottle of water on the floor.
He explained: ‘An hour later, I took (the water bottle) and drank it. Apologies, I peed in it and let it rest. I drank it when it got cold. I saved myself with that.’
Hüseyin admitted having dark thoughts that nobody would come to save him as he sipped the bottle of his own urine to sustain himself for days on end.
Describing the moment he was rescued, he said he heard the sound of rescue teams trying to dig their way through to where he was trapped.
He said: ‘I was a little relieved when I heard that the work was being done above, but my throat was swollen with shouting.
‘I was here, they were there. I climbed next to the cabinet, I am reaching out to the ceiling but I couldn’t make it.
‘But on the other side of the room, it collapsed onto the bed. Our son brought three diggers, they are digging. I was hitting the ceiling, I saw it is punctured, I heard a voice, I shouted.
‘Someone reached their hand out and it met with my hand. They pulled me out from there. The hole I got out of was tiny. I was afraid to get out of that hole, but (I was) OK.
‘That scared me a bit. I remember nothing after they pulled me out. I was rescued, I got out, and I wanted water and food, especially water. I ate nothing, there was nothing to eat.
Hüseyin told how he believed his Muslim faith had saved him.
He said: ‘It means, I did good deeds with Allah, I stayed in Mecca for seven years, hajj, umrah, prayers, for everyone not only for my family. I think because of that God saved me.’
A member of the Turkish medical rescue team which saved him said people under the rubble could generally survive up to five days. He added: ‘Anything beyond five days is a miracle.’
Hüseyin admitted having dark thoughts that nobody would come to save him as he sipped the bottle of his own urine to sustain himself for days on end
Hüseyin told how he believed his Muslim faith had saved him
Hüseyin said he found his diabetes medicine and a bottle of water on the floor
Deniz Gezer, the internal medicine specialist at the City Hospital in Mersin, said many people who had been trapped in rubble had survived for days after being able to reach water in bottles or other containers
He said: ‘Some patients stayed in closed areas, so they can live under buildings, in small closed spaces. Some have water with them.’
Mohana Amirtharajah, a surgery adviser with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said dehydration happened faster in children.
Asked whether drinking urine was a genuine survival strategy, she said she would not recommend it.
But she added: ‘There are definitely case reports of people who survive that way. But what you will find over time is you become more and more dehydrated… your urine becomes more and more concentrated. So the actual water content of your urine will go down.’
Ça?lar Aksoy Çolak, a doctor who is treating Hüseyin said he only needed to be provided with ‘supportive treatment’ for Berber.
The doctor added: ‘He has no broken bones, his general status is fairly good … He actually took care of himself down there. Our patient came out in a very good condition.’
Medical websites suggest that people who drink clear urine with a high per centage of water face little prospect of harm.
But more concentrated golden urine with a higher percentage of salts, urea and other waste products could have the effect of causing further dehydration.
Other survivors who have been saved after being trapped under rubble in Turkey have told of sustaining themselves by eating flowers, protein powder, petroleum jelly and even insects.
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