Rescues offer glimmer of hope amid earthquake ruins in Turkey as death toll reaches 20,000
© Reuters. Survivors rest while a woman reacts at a hospital after an earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey February 10, 2023. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
By Umit Bektas, Mehmet Caliskan and Khalil Ashwi
ANTAKYA, Turkey/JANDARIS, Syria, (Reuters) – The rescue of several survivors from the rubble of buildings in Turkey lifted the spirits of weary search teams on Friday, four days after a major earthquake hit the country and neighboring Syria, killing at least 20,000 people.
Cold, hunger and despair left hundreds of thousands homeless after the tremors, the deadliest in the region in decades.
Several people were rescued from the rubble of buildings overnight, including a 10-year-old boy who was rescued with his mother after 90 hours in Samandag district, Hatay province.
Also in Hatay, a 7-year-old girl named Asya Donmez was rescued after 95 hours and taken to hospital, state news agency Anadolu reported.
But hopes that many more will be found alive in the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings in towns and cities across the region are fading.
The death toll from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and several strong aftershocks in both countries surpassed the more than 17,000 people killed in 1999 when a similarly powerful earthquake struck the northwest. Turkey.
It currently ranks as the seventh deadliest natural disaster this century, ahead of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and nearly 31,000 people killed in an earthquake in neighboring Iran in 2003. .
A Turkish official said the disaster had caused “very serious difficulties” for holding elections scheduled for May 14, in which President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to face. with the toughest challenge in two decades in power.
With anger boiling over delays in delivering aid and rescue efforts underway, the disaster is likely to affect the vote if it continues.
The first UN convoy carrying aid to the Syrian people in difficulty has crossed the border from Turkey.
In Syria’s Idlib province, Munira Mohammad, a mother of four fleeing Aleppo after the earthquake, said: “It’s all children here, we need warmth and supplies. Last night we couldn’t. I can’t sleep because it’s too cold. It’s bad.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in both countries were left homeless in the middle of winter. Many have set up rudimentary shelters in supermarket parking lots, mosques, roadsides or among the rubble.
Survivors are often desperate for food, water, and heat.
About 40% of buildings in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of Monday’s main earthquake, have been damaged, according to a report by Turkey’s Bogazici University.
FIRE BY THE ROAD
At a gas station near the Turkish town of Kemalpasa, people pick up donated clothes in cardboard boxes. In the port city of Iskenderun, Reuters journalists saw people gathered around bonfires by roadside and in dilapidated garages and warehouses.
Authorities say about 6,500 buildings in Turkey have collapsed and countless others damaged.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the death toll in Turkey had risen to 17,674 on Thursday evening. In Syria, which has been ravaged by nearly 12 years of civil war, more than 3,300 people have been killed, according to government and rescue forces in the rebel-held northwest.
In the devastated Syrian town of Jandaris, Ibrahim Khalil Menkaween walks the streets littered with rubble, holding a white body bag. He says he has lost seven family members, including his wife and two brothers.
“I was holding this bag as they brought out my brother, my brother’s young son, and both of their wives,” he said. “The situation is very bad. And there is no aid.”
Turkish officials say about 13.5 million people are affected in an area stretching about 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east. In Syria, people have been killed as far south as Hama, 250 kilometers from the epicenter.
Rescue teams worked in darkness and freezing temperatures to search for survivors at a collapsed building in the city of Adiyaman, Turkish television reported.
Teams called for silence, asked all vehicles and generators to stop, and reporters remained silent as they listened for any sounds of life from the destroyed concrete.
Many in Turkey have complained about the lack of equipment, expertise and support to rescue those trapped – sometimes even when they hear cries for help.
The Israeli military says Greece has sent thousands of tents, beds and blankets and Israeli intelligence satellites are helping to map disaster zones in Turkey using technology mainly used for special operations. separate.
The World Bank is providing Turkey with $1.78 billion in relief and recovery funding, of which $780 million will be available immediately. The United States Agency for International Development will provide $85 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria.
In Syria, relief efforts have been complicated by conflict that has divided the country and destroyed its infrastructure.
The UN aid convoy entered Syria at the Bab Al Hawa border crossing, a lifeline to access areas controlled by the opposition, home to some 4 million people, many of whom have been displaced by the war. , are relying on humanitarian aid.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pushed for more humanitarian access to Syria, saying he would be “very happy” if the United Nations could use more than one border crossing to deliver aid.
The Syrian government considers Turkey’s delivery of aid to rebel-held areas a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
President Bashar al-Assad chaired emergency meetings about the quake but did not mention the country in a speech or press conference.