The search for survivors buried in the wreckage of thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria that were demolished by devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that killed more than 12,000 people continued on Wednesday by overworked rescue crews.
Turkish 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 Turkey’s crisis response, he acknowledged shortcomings, but he swore that nobody would “be abandoned in the streets.”
Tens of thousands of Turkish humanitarian workers are currently present in the earthquake zone, and search teams from more than two dozen other nations have also arrived. But because the damage is so severe, many people are still in need of assistance and holding out hope.
The window of survival for people who are buried beneath the debris of fallen buildings or who are otherwise unable to reach water, food, shelter from the elements, or medical care is fast closing, according to experts. They also stated that it was premature to give up on further rescues.
“The first 72 hours are considered to be essential,” says Steven Godby, a natural hazards expert at Nottingham Trent University in England, “since the condition of persons trapped and injured can worsen swiftly and become fatal if they are not rescued and given medical attention in time.”
The collected bodies of those who perished in the earthquakes but cannot be identified will be buried within five days, according to a statement made on Wednesday by Turkey’s disaster management organisation. Unidentified victims would be buried after DNA tests, finger prints, and after being photographed for potential identification, according to the organisation known as AFAD. The action is in keeping with Islamic funeral customs, which call for a burial to happen as soon as possible after a person passes away.
According to retired journalist Ozel Pikal, who witnessed eight bodies being dragged from a building’s wreckage in the Turkish city of Malatya, the bodies were placed side by side on the ground and wrapped in blankets as rescuers waited for funeral cars to pick them up.
There is currently no hope left in Malatya, therefore today isn’t a good day, Pikal told The Associated Press 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 100 people may be trapped within.
In addition to the cold, road closures, and destruction in the area, he claimed there was a shortage of rescuers in the area he was in.
The cold prevents our hands from picking up anything, stated Pikal. “Working tools are required.”
Despite Twitter being utilised in Turkey, the internet monitoring organisation NetBlocks reported early on Wednesday that access to it had been limited. Turkish officials also claimed to be targeting disinformation.
The scope of suffering was equally startling in Syria, a country where millions have been internally displaced by more than a decade of civil war, leading many to seek asylum in Turkey. There had been a massive collapse of buildings, and it was unclear how many people might still be buried beneath the debris.
The continued conflict in Syria and the isolation of the rebel-held border region, which is ringed by government forces with support from Russia, have made aid attempts more difficult. Syria itself is a global pariah and is subject to war-related Western sanctions.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said on Wednesday that Egypt had dispatched a medical and rescue team, and the United Nations said it was “exploring all possibilities” to bring supplies to the northwest of the nation that is controlled by rebels.
Syria requested humanitarian aid on Wednesday, according to the European Union, to help the victims. According to an EU representative, the bloc’s sanctions on the Syrian government have no bearing on its ability to assist.
On Wednesday, Hussein Arnous, the Syrian prime minister, toured areas in Aleppo, a city in the north, where buildings had collapsed.
Rescue efforts for those still buried beneath the rubble are currently our top priority, he declared.
According to the White Helmets organisation, rescuers extracted a man, a woman, and four children from the ruins in the villages of Salqeen, Harem, and Jinderis in northwest Syria that is still under rebel control.
Residents of the village of Jinderis in northwest Syria discovered a wailing baby on Monday with her dead mother’s umbilical chord still attached. According to her father’s cousin, the newborn was the only member of her family to survive when the family home fell. Father, mother, aunt, and siblings of the infant all died.
A 13-year-old girl and parents with two children were among the survivors recovered alive from the wreckage of the city of Besni, according to Polish rescuers operating in Turkey.
Although two firefighters told Polish TVN24 that the fact that people were trapped in bed under warm covers by the early-morning earthquake may help, they said that low temperatures were working against them.
However, according to University College London’s David Alexander, a professor of emergency planning and management, statistics from previous earthquakes indicated that chances of survival were now very poor, especially for people who had sustained severe wounds or major blood loss.
According to statistics, today is the day when we will stop finding people. That doesn’t mean we should give up looking, though.
Alexander warned that because there is so much debris that needs to be sorted, the ultimate death toll might not be known for several weeks.
Nevertheless, tales of rescues continued to inspire optimism. Arif Kaan, age 3, was rescued from beneath the debris of a collapsed apartment building in Kahramanmaras, not far from the epicentre, nearly two days after the earthquakes.
Emergency workers covered the boy’s torso with a blanket to protect him from the subzero conditions as they carefully cut the debris away from him, aware that the boy’s lower body was stuck under concrete slabs 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.”
In Turkey, many survivors were forced to spend the night in their cars, outside, or in public shelters.
“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 “The Associated Press was informed by Aysan Kurt, 27. We won’t die from the cold; we didn’t die from hunger or the earthquake.
According to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergency official with the World Health Organization, as many as 23 million people could be impacted in the earthquake-affected area. She described it as a “crisis on top of several crises.”
Erdogan agreed that there were issues with the initial reaction but claimed that things have changed during his tour of the earthquake-affected districts. He declared that the impacted families will receive the equivalent of $532 from his government.
The disaster comes at a sensitive time for Erdogan, who faces presidential and parliamentary elections in May amid an economic downturn and high inflation. Perceptions that his government mismanaged the crisis could severely hurt his standings.
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.