Turkey promises quick recovery after earthquake, Syrians ask for help

HAREM/JANDARIS, SYRIA—Turkey has demolished buildings badly damaged by last week’s devastating earthquake, speeding up large-scale reconstruction efforts as thousands of families struggle to survive amidst rubble and freezing conditions. announced to start.

Rescuers who flew in to save those trapped in the rubble had begun packing, but one woman was pulled from the collapsed building Wednesday after being buried for 222 hours.

The rebel-held northwest of neighboring Syria has already suffered more than a decade of bombardment, with the earthquake leaving many unable to fend for themselves in the rubble and the complex politics of humanitarian aid there. support was delayed by

The combined death toll in both countries has exceeded 41,000, millions are in need of humanitarian assistance, and many survivors have been left homeless in near freezing winter temperatures. Now there is little help.

In southern Turkey’s Hatay province, half of the buildings have collapsed, are badly damaged or need to be demolished urgently, the government said.

Turkey’s Minister of Environment and Urbanization, Murat Kulm, said in a tweet that “what needs to be demolished will be demolished immediately and a safe house will be built.”

Tourism Minister Nuri Ersoy told a press conference in Malatya, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the epicenter of the quake, that if authorities confirmed the safety of buildings, people would be urged to go home “to start returning to normal”. said to encourage. .

destroyed building
A destroyed building is seen in Nurdagi, Turkey on February 13, 2023. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

“Get us out!”

Across the border in Syria, relief efforts are hampered by a civil war that has divided the country and divided regional and global powers.

boy holding 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)

A single border crossing from Turkey to Syria was open after the earthquake, but the UN had not sent aid for days, citing logistical problems.

“The situation is really tragic,” said Abdurrahman Mohammad, a Syrian refugee from neighboring Aleppo province, in Idlib, in the country’s northwest.

The Idlib governorate and parts of neighboring Aleppo, controlled by Turkish-backed rebels, suffered most of the casualties from the earthquake in Syria, according to the United Nations and government officials.

“Anyone who works as a laborer and rents a house…if it costs $10 a day and you can hardly afford it, how should you rebuild?” From Aleppo said Muhammad of

On Tuesday, eight days after the earthquake, a second border crossing was opened for the delivery of relief supplies after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to send cross-border aid to rebel enclaves. marked a shift in Damascus, which has long opposed the delivery of

However, the truck did not contain any heavy equipment or machinery that rescuers say should clear the debris faster.

“What happened to us is the first time in the world. said Reid Saleh, who leads the rescue party.

Saleh and others in the Northwest said more lives could have been saved in Syria if the outside world had acted more quickly.

In Idlib, Walid Ibrahim lost more than 20 family members. Among them were brothers, cousins ​​and all children.

“We were removing rock after rock, but we couldn’t find anything under it. People were yelling, ‘Get out! let us out! But we would have come up with an empty hand,” he said. “Your hands just aren’t enough.”

Further north in Jandalis, rescuers said they had not found anyone alive under the rubble since February 9, but were continuing to search. Residents said people were still trapped.

Civil defense volunteer Hassan Mohammed said efforts to find survivors in the worst-hit areas of northwestern Syria had ended, but rescuers were still on the scene following reports of missing persons. . “We go to areas where there was no internet,” he said.

By Ali Kucukgocmen and Khalil Ashawi