Stretched rescue crews laboured through the night in Turkey and Syria looking for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings that had been destroyed by a devastating earthquake as hope for finding survivors was diminishing. In the deadliest earthquake to hit the world in more than ten years, the death toll increased to above 11,000 on Wednesday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited a “tent city” in Kahramanmaras, where people who had to leave their homes are residing, amid appeals for the Turkish government to deliver additional aid to the disaster area. Early in the statement, he acknowledged shortcomings but promised that nobody would “be abandoned in the streets.”
Tens of thousands of local rescue workers have been joined by search teams from more than two dozen nations, and assistance donations have flooded in from all around the world. However, many people are still in need of assistance because the 7.8 magnitude earthquake’s devastation was so great and widespread, especially in regions cut off by Syria’s ongoing civil war.
According to retired journalist Ozel Pikal, who witnessed eight victims being removed from a building’s wreckage in the Turkish city of Malatya, the remains were placed side by side on the ground, covered in blankets, while rescuers waited for funeral trucks to pick them up.
As temperatures dropped to minus 6 degrees Celsius, Pikal, who assisted with the rescue efforts, said he thinks at least some of the victims may have frozen to death (21 Fahrenheit).
There is now no hope in Malatya, therefore today isn’t a good day, Pikal told the AP over the phone. “No one is emerging from the wreckage alive.”
According to Pikal, a hotel structure in the city has fallen, and more than a hundred people may be trapped within.
He claimed that there was a lack of rescuers in the region he was in and that government teams and volunteer rescuers were both hindered by the cold in their attempts. Mobility and access have also been hampered in the area by road closures and damage.
The cold prevents our hands from picking up anything, stated Pikal. “Working tools are required.”
The extent of the suffering was shocking in a region already affected by a civil conflict in Syria that has lasted more than ten years and forced millions of people to flee their homes and seek safety in Turkey. It was unclear how many people might still be trapped beneath the wreckage after hundreds of buildings collapsed.
The disaster management organisation in Turkey reported that 8,500 people had died there. According to the Syrian Health Ministry, over 1,200 people have perished in government-held areas, while the White Helmets, a group of volunteer first responders, estimate at least 1,400 fatalities in the northwest, which is controlled by rebels.
Since the earthquake and several powerful aftershocks on Monday, there have been 11,000 total fatalities. There are tens of thousands more injuries.
Nearly 20,000 people perished in a tsunami caused by an earthquake that occurred in 2011 close to Japan. Pope Francis requested prayers and acts of solidarity after the “devastating” earthquake during his weekly general audience, but neither Turkey nor Syria gave figures for the number of persons still missing.
According to Syrian officials, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing was used to return the bodies of more than 100 Syrians who perished during the earthquake in Turkey for burial. Twenty additional bodies were on their way to the border, according to Mazen Alloush, an officer on the Syrian side of the border, who also noted that they were all Syrian refugees.
Polish rescuers operating in Turkey claimed they had so far retrieved nine people alive from the rubble, including parents with two children and a 13-year-old girl from the ruins in the city of Besni. However, concerns are growing for those remaining trapped.
They agreed that the cold weather was working against them, but two firefighters told Polish TVN24 that some may have benefited from being trapped in bed with warm covers during the early-morning earthquake. Currently, the rescuers are attempting to approach a woman who they are aware is lying in bed.
Arif Kaan, 3, was rescued from beneath the debris of a collapsed apartment building in Kahramanmaras, which is not far from the epicentre, nearly two days after the earthquake.
Emergency personnel covered the boy’s torso with a blanket as they gently hacked the rubble away from him, cautious of the potential of causing another collapse, with the boy’s lower body stuck beneath slabs of concrete and twisted rebar.
Ertugrul Kisi, the boy’s father, who had previously himself been rescued, sobbed as his son was freed and loaded into an ambulance.
As the dramatic rescue was carried around the nation, a Turkish television reporter exclaimed, “For now, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kaan.”
A few hours later, rescuers in the city of Adiyaman extricated 10-year-old Betul Edis from the ruins of her house. Her granddad kissed her and spoke sweetly to her while spectators applauded.
“We don’t have anything, including a tent or a stove for heat. Our kids are in terrible shape. While our children are outside in the chilly weather, we are all getting soaked “27-year-old Aysan Kurt told the AP. We won’t die from the cold; we didn’t die from hunger or the earthquake.
Aid attempts in Syria have been hindered by the ongoing conflict and the segregation of the rebel-held border region, which is encircled by government forces backed by Russia. As a result of Western sanctions related to the conflict, Syria itself has become a global pariah.
Major fault lines run through the area, which frequently experiences earthquakes. Around 18,000 people perished in earthquakes of comparable strength that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.