GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Thinly stretched rescue teams worked through the night in Turkey and Syria, pulling more bodies from the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by a catastrophic earthquake. The death toll rose Wednesday to more than 9,500, making the quake the deadliest in more than a decade.
Turkey’s disaster management agency said the country’s death toll had risen to 7,108, bringing the overall total to 9,638, including fatalities reported in neighboring Syria, since Monday’s earthquake and multiple aftershocks.
The death toll in government-held areas of Syria has climbed to 1,250, with 2,054 injured, according to the Health Ministry. At least 1,280 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets, with more than 2,600 injured.
That surpassed the 8,800 killed in a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal in 2015.
Amid calls for the government to send more help to the disaster zone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was to travel to town of Pazarcik, the epicenter of the quake, and to the worst-hit province of Hatay on Wednesday.
Turkey now has 60,000 aid personnel in the quake-hit zone, but with the devastation so widespread many are still waiting for help.
Nearly two days after the magnitude 7.8 quake struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, rescuers pulled a three-year-old boy, Arif Kaan, from beneath the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in Kahramanmaras, a city not far from the epicenter, in below-freezing temperatures. A few hours later, rescuers pulled 10-year-old Betul Edis from the rubble of her home in the city of Adiyaman.
But such stories were few more than two days after Monday’s pre-dawn earthquake, which hit a huge area and brought down thousands of buildings, with frigid temperatures and ongoing aftershocks complicating rescue efforts.
Search teams from more than two dozen countries joined the Turkish emergency personnel, and aid pledges poured in.
In Syria, the shaking toppled thousands of buildings and heaped more misery on a region wracked by the country’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
On Monday afternoon in a northwestern Syrian town, residents found a crying newborn still connected by the umbilical cord to her deceased mother. The baby was the only member of her family to survive a building collapse in the small town of Jinderis, relatives told The Associated Press.
Turkey is home to millions of refugees from the war. The affected area in Syria is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, where millions rely on humanitarian aid.
Many survivors in Turkey have had to sleep in cars, outside in the freezing cold or in government shelters.
Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected, and he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey, and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, authorities said.
In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing war and the isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by Russia-backed government forces. Syria itself is an international pariah under Western sanctions linked to the war.
In addition to the thousands killed in Turkey, another 40,910 have been injured.
The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999. (AP)
EMERGENCY workers and medics rescue a woman out of the debris of a collapsed building in Elbistan, Kahramanmaras, in southern Turkey, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey and Syria Monday. / AP
February 08, 2023
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