Turkey earthquake: Quake death toll tops 5,000 as Turkey and Syria search for survivors

ADANA, Turkey — Rescuers raced on Tuesday to find survivors in the rubble of thousands of buildings destroyed by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks that struck eastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, with the discovery of more bodies bringing the death toll to more than 5,000.

Countries around the world have sent teams to help with rescue efforts, and Turkey’s disaster management agency said more than 24,400 rescuers were now on the ground. But with such a large swath of territory affected by Monday’s earthquake and nearly 6,000 buildings confirmed to have collapsed in Turkey alone, their efforts have been scattered.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked central Turkey early Monday and was followed by a strong aftershock.

Attempts to reach survivors were also hampered by sub-zero temperatures and nearly 200 aftershocks, which made searching through unstable structures perilous.

Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press that she could hear her mother’s voice under the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, but that her efforts and those of others to enter the ruins had been futile without any rescue teams and heavy equipment to help.

“If only we could lift the concrete slab, we could reach it,” she said. “My mother is 70 years old, she won’t be able to take this for long.”

In Hatay province, just southwest of the quake’s epicenter, officials said as many as 1,500 buildings had been destroyed and scores of people reported relatives trapped under the rubble without no aid or rescue team arrives.

In areas where crews were working, occasional cheers erupted throughout the night as survivors emerged from the rubble.

The earthquake, which was centered in Kahramanmaras province in southeastern Turkey, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing to the streets and was felt as far away as Cairo.

Sébastien Gay, head of mission in Syria for Doctors Without Borders, said health facilities in northern Syria were overwhelmed with medical personnel working “around the clock to respond to the large number of injured”.

Turkey earthquake: Quake death toll tops 5,000 as Turkey and Syria search for survivors

Civil defense workers and residents search the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Harem near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, Monday, February 6, 2023.

AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed

In the Turkish province of Hatay, thousands of people took refuge in sports centers or fairgrounds, while others spent the night outside, huddled in blankets around fires.

Turkey has a large number of troops in the border region with Syria and has tasked the military to help with rescue efforts, including setting up tents for the homeless and a field hospital in Hatay province. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said an Ankara-based humanitarian aid brigade and eight military search and rescue teams had also been deployed.

A navy ship docked at the provincial port of Iskenderun, where a hospital collapsed, on Tuesday to ferry survivors in need of medical attention to the nearby town of Mersin. Thick black smoke billowed from another area of ​​the port, where firefighters have yet to be able to extinguish a blaze that broke out among shipping containers that were overturned by the quake earthen.

In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicentre, people have taken refuge in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centers.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total death toll in Turkey had risen to 3,419, with another 20,534 injured.

The death toll in areas controlled by the Syrian government stood at 812 people, with some 1,450 injured, according to the health ministry. In the rebel-held northwest of the country, the opposition Syrian Civil Defence, or White Helmets, the paramedic group leading the rescue operations, said at least 790 people had been killed and more than 2 200 injured.

This brought the overall total to 5,021.

Authorities fear the death toll will continue to rise as rescuers search for survivors among the tangles of metal and concrete spread across the region plagued by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

In the latest international aid pledges, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he was preparing to quickly dispatch a 60-person search and rescue team along with medical supplies and 50 troops. The Pakistani government sent a flight carrying relief supplies and a 50-member search and rescue team early on Tuesday, and said there would be daily aid flights to Syria and Turkey from Wednesday. . India said it would send two search and rescue teams, including specially trained dogs and medical personnel.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will travel to Ankara on Wednesday to express condolences and solidarity, according to a statement from Islamabad.

US President Joe Biden called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express his condolences and offer help to the NATO ally. The White House said it was sending search and rescue teams to support Turkey’s efforts.

The earthquake has deepened misery in a region that has experienced enormous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the affected area is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey is home to millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

In the rebel-held enclave, hundreds of families remained trapped in the rubble, the opposition emergency organization known as the White Helmets said in a statement. The region is teeming with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many live in buildings already damaged by military bombardment.

Overcrowded medical centers quickly filled with injured people, emergency workers said. Some facilities had to be emptied, including a maternity ward, according to the medical organization SAMS.

More than 7,800 people have been rescued in 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s disaster management authority.

Turkey earthquake: Quake death toll tops 5,000 as Turkey and Syria search for survivors

Firefighters transport the body of a victim in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, Monday, February 6, 2023.

AP Photo/Mahmut Bozarsan

The region sits atop major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 people were killed in equally powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey in 1999.

The US Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles). Hours later, another quake, likely triggered by the first one, hit more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away with a magnitude of 7.5.

The second tremor tipped a multi-storey building in the Turkish town of Sanliurfa onto the street in a cloud of dust as passers-by screamed, according to video from the scene.

Thousands of buildings have collapsed in a wide area stretching from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Diyarbakir in Turkey, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast.

Turkey earthquake: Quake death toll tops 5,000 as Turkey and Syria search for survivors

Civil defense and security forces officers search the rubble of collapsed buildings in Hama, Syria, Monday, February 6, 2023.

AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki

Alsayed reported from Azmarin, Syria, while Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers David Rising in Bangkok, Zeynep Bilginsoy and Robert Badendieck in Istanbul, Bassem Mroue and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut, Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, and Riazat Butt in Islamabad, contributed to this report.

The video in the player above is from an earlier report.

Copyright © 2023 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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