The death toll from the earthquake has exceeded 46,000.Despair for Sign of Life

Antakya/Kahramammaras, Turkey – More than 46,000 people have been killed in the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, with casualties expected to rise sharply. .

As Turkey grapples with the worst disaster of modern times, concerns are mounting over the victims of the tragedy in Syria, prompting the World Food Program (WFP) to tell authorities in the northwest region it is trying to save hundreds of thousands of people. pressure to stop blocking access to people affected by the earthquake.

Twelve days after the earthquake struck, Kyrgyz workers tried to save a Syrian family of five from building debris in the southern Turkish city of Antakya.

Three people, including a child, were safely rescued. Rescuers said the mother and father survived, but the child died of dehydration. One sister and twins did not make it in time.

“Today, an hour ago when we were digging, we heard a scream. We are always happy when we find someone alive,” rescue team member Atai Osmanov told Reuters.

Ten ambulances were waiting on nearby streets that were closed to traffic to enable rescue operations.

Workers asked for complete silence, for everyone to squat or sit down when the team climbed further into the rubble of the building and a family member used electronic detectors to hear further sounds. I asked.

A worker shouted at the rubble as rescue efforts continued. “If you can hear me, take a deep breath.”

An excavator then arrived and began to climb and clear the debris, prompting workers to call off the search.

The death toll in Turkey stands at 40,642 from the quake, while neighboring Syria reported more than 5,800 deaths, unchanged for several days.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said the Syrian and Turkish governments have been cooperating very well, but their operations have been hampered in northwestern Syria. Stated.

The agency said last week it was out of stock and called for more border crossings from Turkey to open.

“The problem we face is [are with] A cross-line operation into northwestern Syria where the northwestern Syrian authorities are not giving us the access we need,” Beasley said.

“It’s a bottleneck in our operations. It needs to be fixed immediately.”

“Time is running out and money is running out. [to get] It’s the support we need,” added Beasley.

Syria has already been ravaged by more than a decade of civil war, with the majority of deaths occurring in the northwest.

The region is dominated by militants who are at war with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, complicating efforts to get aid to the people.

Thousands of Syrians who had fled to Turkey from the civil war have, at least for now, returned to their homes in conflict areas.

Turkey earthquake aftermath
A man rides a bicycle along a collapsed Roman Catholic church shortly after the devastating earthquake in the coastal town of Iskenderun, Hatay Province, Turkey, on February 14, 2023. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

public health

While many international rescue teams left Turkey’s vast seismic zone, domestic teams continued to search inside collapsed buildings on Saturday to find more survivors who defied odds. Experts say most rescues occur within 24 hours of an earthquake.

Health officials and experts have expressed concern about the possible spread of the disease in areas where thousands of buildings were destroyed last week and sanitary infrastructure was damaged.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday that although infections of the intestine and upper respiratory tract are on the rise, the numbers do not pose a serious threat to public health, and will monitor possible illnesses. and added that preventative measures were being taken.

“Our priority now is to combat the situation that could threaten public health and prevent infectious diseases,” Kocha said at a press conference in southern Hatay province.

Aid organizations say survivors will need help for months until so much critical infrastructure is destroyed.

boy distributes food
A teenage boy holds food rations he finds in the rubble of a building in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in the rebel-controlled town of Harem in Syria’s Idlib province on February 14, 2023. (Emilie Madi/Reuters)

grow angry

Neither Turkey nor Syria has disclosed the number of people missing after the quake.

Families awaiting a search for relatives in Turkey are growing angry over what they see as thousands of homes and businesses collapsed due to corrupt building practices and deeply flawed urban development. .

One such building, the Ronesans Rezidans (Renaissance dwellings), collapsed in Antakya, killing hundreds.

“We were told it was earthquake safe, and you can see the results,” said Hamza Alpaslan, 47, whose brother lived in the block. No cement, no proper iron, just hell.”

Turkey has pledged to investigate those suspected of being responsible for the building collapse and has ordered the detention of more than 100 suspects, including the developer.

By Clodagh Kilcoyne and Ali Kucukgocmen