Death toll rises, rescues dwindle in earthquake aftermath


KAHRAMANMARAS, Turkey — A teenager was pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Gaziantep early Friday, in a dramatic rescue that contrasts with the reality that the body The association found more survivors than four days after the catastrophic earthquake that killed tens of thousands is rapidly decreasing.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the border area between Turkey and Syria, an area inhabited by more than 13.5 million people, killing more than 20,000. Bodies were wrapped in blankets, carpets and tarps on the streets of some cities, with overcrowded morgues and cemeteries.

Before dawn in Gaziantep, near the epicenter of the quake, rescuers pulled Adnan Muhammed Korkut from the basement, which has been trapped since Monday’s quake. The 17-year-old smiled brightly in front of a crowd of friends and relatives chanting “Adnan”, “Adnan”, clapping his hands and crying tears of joy as he was taken out and placed on a stretcher.

“Thank God you came,” he said, embracing his mother and the others who leaned over to kiss and hug him as he was loaded into the ambulance. “Thanks everyone.”

Trapped for 94 hours but not crushed, the teenager said he was forced to drink his own urine to quench his thirst.

“I was able to survive that way,” he said.

“I have a son just like you,” one lifeguard, identified only as Yasemin, told him after hugging him warmly. “I swear to you, I haven’t slept in four days. I swear I don’t sleep; I tried to get you out.

The death toll from the quake, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the “catastrophe of the century,” has risen to nearly 21,000, surpassing the more than 18,400 killed in the quake that triggered the tsunami. off the coast of Fukushima, Japan in 2011, and an estimated 18,000 people died in an earthquake near the Turkish capital Istanbul in 1999.

The new number, which is sure to grow, includes more than 17,600 people in Turkey and more than 3,300 in civil war-torn Syria. Tens of thousands of people were also injured and tens of thousands of people were left homeless.

Aerial footage shows the extent of the devastation, with entire residential high-rises left with only twisted metal, powdered concrete and exposed electrical wires.

Although experts say those trapped can survive for a week or more, the chances of finding survivors in freezing temperatures are dwindling. As emergency crews and loved ones frantically dig through the rubble — and occasionally find survivors — the focus begins to shift to destroying dangerously unstable structures.

In Kahramanmaras, the city closest to the epicenter, a sports arena the size of a basketball court was used as a makeshift morgue to store and identify bodies.

Workers continued rescue operations in Kahramanmaras, but it became clear that many people trapped in collapsed buildings were killed. One lifeguard was heard saying that his mental state was collapsing and the smell of death was becoming too much to bear.

In northwest Syria, the first UN aid trucks since the earthquake entering the rebel-held area from Turkey arrived on Thursday, underscoring the difficulty in helping help the people there.

In the Turkish city of Antakya, dozens of people scrambled for aid in front of a truck distributing children’s coats and other essentials. One survivor, Ahmet Tokgoz, has called on the government to evacuate people from the area. Many who lost their homes sought refuge in tents, stadiums and other makeshift shelters, but others had to sleep outdoors.

“Especially in this cold, it’s impossible to live here,” he said. “If people hadn’t died from being trapped under the rubble, they would have died of the cold.”

Winter weather and damage to roads and airports hampered the response. Some in Turkey have complained that the government is slow to respond – a perception that could hurt Mr Erdogan at a time when he faces an uphill battle for re-election in May.

Erdogan has visited the affected cities in the past two days.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said more than 110,000 rescuers are currently involved in the effort and more than 5,500 vehicles, including tractors, cranes, bulldozers and excavators have been delivered. The State Department said 95 countries have offered to help.

Alsayed reported from Bab al-Hawa, Syria, and Bilginsoy from Istanbul. Associated Press journalist Mehmet Guzel in Antakya, Turkey; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey; Emrah Gurel and Yakup Paksoy in Adiyaman, Turkey; Robert Badendieck in Istanbul; Bassem Mroue and Abby Sewell in Beirut; and David Rising in Bangkok contributed.


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