More than 7,300 dead in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria
Rescuers in Turkey and Syria battled freezing cold on Tuesday in a race against time to find survivors under buildings leveled by an earthquake that killed more than 7,300 people.
The tremors which inflicted more suffering on an already conflict-ridden border area left people in the streets burning debris to try to stay warm as international aid began to arrive.
But extraordinary stories of survival have emerged, including a newborn baby pulled alive from the rubble in Syria, still attached by its umbilical cord to its mother who died in Monday’s earthquake.
“We heard a voice while we were digging,” Khalil al-Suwadi, a relative, told AFP. “We removed the dust and found the baby with the umbilical cord (intact) so we cut it and my cousin took her to the hospital.”
The child is the sole survivor of his immediate family, the rest of whom were killed in the rebel city of Jindayris.
The 7.8 magnitude quake hit Monday as people slept, flattening thousands of structures, trapping an unknown number of people and potentially affecting millions.
Entire rows of buildings collapsed, leaving some of the heaviest devastation near the quake’s epicenter between the Turkish towns of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.
The destruction led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces on Tuesday.
– ‘Children are freezing’ –
Dozens of countries, including the United States, China and the Gulf states, have pledged to help, and search teams and relief supplies have started arriving by air.
Still, residents of some of the hardest-hit areas said they felt they had been left on their own.
“I can’t get my brother back from the ruins. I can’t get my nephew back. Look around. There are no officials here, for God’s sake,” Ali Sagiroglu said in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.
“For two days we haven’t seen the state here… The children are freezing because of the cold,” he added.
A winter storm has added to the misery by rendering many roads – some damaged by the earthquake – almost impassable, leading to traffic jams that stretch for miles in some areas.
The cold rain and snow pose a risk both to people driven from their homes – who have taken refuge in mosques, schools or even bus shelters – and to survivors buried under the rubble.
“It’s now a race against time,” said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We have activated the WHO network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care to the injured and most vulnerable,” he added.
– 23 million could be affected –
The latest toll puts 5,434 people killed in Turkey and at least 1,872 in Syria, for a combined total of 7,306 dead.
There are fears the toll could rise inexorably, with WHO officials estimating that up to 20,000 people could have died.
The WHO has warned that up to 23 million people could be affected by the massive quake and urged nations to rush to help the disaster area.
The Syrian Red Crescent has called on Western countries to lift sanctions and provide aid as President Bashar al-Assad’s government remains a pariah in the West, complicating international relief efforts.
Washington and the European Commission said on Monday that the humanitarian programs supported by them were responding to the destruction in Syria.
The UN cultural agency UNESCO also said it was ready to provide assistance after two sites on its World Heritage List in Syria and Turkey suffered damage.
Along with damage to Aleppo’s Old City and Diyarbakir Fortress in southeastern Turkey, UNESCO said at least three other World Heritage sites could be affected.
Much of the quake-affected area of northern Syria has already been decimated by years of war and aerial bombardments by Syrian and Russian forces that have destroyed homes, hospitals and clinics.
Residents of the quake-devastated town of Jandairis in northern Syria used their bare hands and pickaxes to search for survivors.
– ‘Listen to their voices’ –
“My whole family is under there, my sons, my daughter, my son-in-law… There is no one else to take them out,” Ali Battal said, his face streaked with blood and his head wrapped in a woolen shawl. against the biting cold.
“I hear their voices. I know they are alive but there is no one to rescue them,” added the man in his sixties.
The Syrian Health Ministry reported damage in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartous, where Russia leases a naval facility.
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo – Syria’s pre-war commercial center – often collapsed due to dilapidated infrastructure.
After the quake, prisoners mutinied in a prison mostly held by members of the Islamic State group in northwestern Syria, and at least 20 of them escaped, the Syrian Arab Republic said. AFP a source from the establishment.
Turkey is in one of the most active seismic zones in the world.
The country’s last 7.8 magnitude quake was in 1939, when 33,000 people died in the eastern province of Erzincan.
Turkey’s Duzce region suffered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in 1999, which killed more than 17,000 people.
Experts have long warned that a large earthquake could devastate Istanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with ramshackle houses.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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