Death toll reaches 23,700 as Turkish, Syrian rescue efforts continue | earthquake news

The confirmed deaths in Turkey and northwestern Syria from the deadliest earthquake in the region in 20 years are more than 23,700, four days after the quake struck, according to officials.

The death toll from the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck early Monday morning, as well as several strong aftershocks, surpassed the more than 17,000 people killed in 1999 when a similarly powerful quake struck. out in northwestern Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged during a visit to Adiyaman province on Friday that the government’s response could have been better.

“Although we currently have the largest search and rescue team in the world, the reality is that the search efforts are not as fast as we would like,” he said.

Al Jazeera correspondent Resul Serdar said rescue teams had gone “crazy” as hopes of finding survivors faded with each passing hour.

Rescuers are “diging into the rubble and hoping to find some people alive or dead because more than 96 hours have passed and hope here is fading,” he said as he stood in front of a row of houses. collapsed in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey. , near the epicenter of the first magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

“Families are here, anxiously waiting,” he added. “The level of devastation is beyond imagination.”

Some time later, rescuers managed to dig up a man alive under the rubble 110 hours after the quake struck, Serdar said.

Al Jazeera reporter Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said the entire family was missing.

“We are talking to a woman here. She said ‘I have four older brothers, my mother, my cousin and all her nieces and nephews… all of whom died immediately when the building completely collapsed.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, criticized the government’s response.

Kilicdaroglu said in a statement: “The earthquake was huge but what was much bigger than the earthquake was the lack of coordination, the lack of planning and the incompetence.

With anger boiling over delays in delivering aid and rescue efforts underway, the disaster could affect Mr Erdogan’s re-election bid, with the vote expected May 14. The election may now be postponed due to the disaster.

‘We can’t cope’

The country’s health minister said the death toll in Turkey had risen to 20,213 on Friday. In Syria, more than 3,500 people have been killed. Many others are still under the rubble.

In Syria, the government on Friday approved the delivery of humanitarian aid across the front lines of the country’s 12-year war, a move that could hasten aid to millions of desperate people.

The World Food Program earlier said it was running out of reserves in rebel-held northwest Syria as war complicates relief efforts.

Dr Mohamed Alabash, a general surgeon at Idlib Central Hospital in northwestern Syria, has made an urgent appeal for assistance.

He told Al Jazeera: “We are facing a shortage of drugs and equipment. “The hospital is full of patients, and so is the intensive care unit.”

“We cannot cope with this huge number of patients. The patients’ injuries are very severe, and we need extra support.”

The doctor said that the medical staff at this facility are under great pressure, working around the clock.

“All the paramedics are on the job for 24 hours and we have consumed all the materials we have, from medicines to ICU materials,” Alabrash said, adding that its generators The hospital was almost out of fuel.

Hope amidst the ruins

Rescuers, consisting of teams from dozens of countries, worked day and night in the rubble of thousands of dilapidated buildings searching for buried survivors. In freezing temperatures, they frequently call for silence as they listen for any sound of life from the crumbling concrete mounds.

In Turkey’s Samandag district, rescuers crouched under concrete slabs whispering “Inshallah” (God willing) and carefully reached into the rubble to pick up a 10-day-old baby.

Eyes wide open, baby Yagiz Ulas was wrapped in a thermal blanket and taken to a field hospital. Video footage showed paramedics also lifting his mother, who was stunned and pale but conscious, onto a stretcher.

Across the border in Syria, rescuers from the White Helmets group used their hands to dig through plaster and cement until they reached the bare feet of a young girl, still wearing pink, stained pajamas but alive.

But hopes that many others will be found alive are fading.

In the Syrian town of Jandaris, Naser al-Wakaa sobbed as he sat on a pile of rubble and warped metal that was once his family home, burying his face in baby clothes that once belonged to one of his children. his.

“Bilal, oh Bilal,” he groaned, shouting the name of one of his dead children.

The head of Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Organization, Bulent Yildirim, has traveled to Syria to see the impact there. “It was as if a rocket had been dropped on every building,” he said.

About 24.4 million people in Syria and Turkey have been affected, according to Turkish and United Nations officials, in an area stretching about 450km (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east. winter.

In Syria, people have been killed as far south as Hama, 250 kilometers from the epicenter.

Hundreds of thousands more have been left homeless and short of food in the frigid winter conditions and leaders in both countries have faced questions about their response.

Many have set up shelter in supermarket parking lots, mosques, roadsides or among the rubble. Many survivors are desperate for food, water and heat.


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