Turkiye earthquake, Syria: Death toll passes 9,500

GAZIANTEP, Turkiye –

Fragile rescue teams worked through the night in Turkiye and Syria, pulling more bodies from the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by the catastrophic earthquake. Wednesday’s death toll rose to more than 9,500, making the quake the deadliest in more than a decade.

It is the deadliest earthquake since the 2011 earthquake in Japan that triggered a tsunami, killing nearly 20,000 people.

Amid calls for the government to send more help to the disaster area, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to the town of Pazarcik, the epicenter of the quake, and to the worst-hit province of Hatay on Wednesday.

Turkiye currently has about 60,000 relief workers in the quake-ravaged area, but with so much devastation, many are still waiting for help.

Nearly two days after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit southeastern Turkiye and northern Syria, rescuers pulled 3-year-old Arif Kaan from under the rubble of a collapsed apartment building. in Kahramanmaras, a city not far from the epicenter.

With the boy’s lower body trapped under concrete slabs and twisted rebar, emergency crews put a blanket over him to protect him from sub-freezing temperatures as they carefully cut the bones. shards out of him, noting the possibility of another collapse.

The boy’s father, Ertugrul Kisi, who had been rescued earlier, sobbed as his son was pulled out and taken to an ambulance.

“Currently, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kaan,” a Turkish TV reporter announced as the dramatic rescue was televised back home.

Hours later, rescuers pulled 10-year-old Betul Edis from the rubble of her house in the city of Adiyaman. Amid applause from onlookers, her grandfather kissed her and spoke softly to her as she was loaded into the ambulance.

But such stories come just over two days after Monday’s pre-dawn quake, which struck a large area and tore down thousands of buildings, with frigid temperatures and high winds. Continuous aftershocks complicate rescue efforts.

Search teams from more than 20 countries joined Turkish emergency forces and aid pledges poured in.

But with the devastation spreading, many cities and towns – some isolated by the ongoing conflict in Syria – the cries from within the ruins have died down, and the despair has grown. from those who are still waiting for help.

In Syria, the earthquake toppled thousands of buildings and caused more suffering in an area ravaged by the country’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

On Monday afternoon in a town in northwestern Syria, residents found a crying infant with the umbilical cord attached to its deceased mother. The baby was the only member of the family to survive the building collapse in the small town of Jinderis, relatives told the AP news agency.

Turkiye was home to millions of post-war refugees. The affected area in Syria is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last remaining opposition-held enclave, where millions live off humanitarian aid.

Up to 23 million people could be affected in the quake-affected area, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergency official for the World Health Organization.

Many Turkiye survivors slept in cars, outside or in government shelters.

“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a stove, we don’t have anything. Our children are in terrible condition. We all got wet in the rain and our kids had to go out. it’s cold,” Aysan Kurt, 27, told the AP. “We won’t die of starvation or earthquakes, but we will freeze to death from the cold.”

Mr. Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected and that he had declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. Authorities said more than 8,000 people were pulled from the rubble in Turkiye and about 380,000 people took shelter in government shelters or hotels.

Turkiye’s disaster management agency said the death toll in the country had risen to 7,108, bringing the total death toll to 9,638, including deaths reported in neighboring Syria, since the quake. Monday and many aftershocks. Another 40,910 people were injured.

The death toll in government-controlled areas of Syria has risen to 1,250, with 2,054 injured, the Health Ministry said. 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.

In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing fighting and the isolation of the rebel-held area along the border, which is besieged by Russian-backed government forces. Syria itself is a country abandoned internationally under Western sanctions related to the war.

The United Nations said it was “exploring all avenues” to resupply the rebel-held northwest.

The area is located on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. About 18,000 people were killed in similar strong earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkiye in 1999.

Alsayed reports from Bab al-Hawa, Syria. Fraser reports from Ankara, Turkiye. David Rising in Bangkok and Robert Badendieck in Istanbul contributed to this story.

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