9 survivors pulled from Turkey's rubble, as earthquake death toll passes 41,000

A man prays near the rubble of destroyed homes, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on Feb 14. (Photo: Reuters)

Nine survivors were recovered from the rubble in Turkey on Tuesday (February 14), more than a week after a massive earthquake struck. The focus of the assistance effort moved to assist those without shelter or sufficient food in the cold.

With a cumulative death toll of more than 41,000 in Turkey and neighbouring Syria, the calamity has devastated cities in both nations, leaving many survivors homeless in near-freezing winter weather.

President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has acknowledged faults with the initial response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck early on February 6. Still, he has stated that the issue is now under control.

Mr Erdogan stated in a broadcast speech in Ankara, "We are facing one of the greatest natural disasters not only in our country but also in the history of humanity."

Tuesday's rescues included two brothers, ages 17 and 21, hauled from an apartment building in the province of Kahramanmaras, and a Syrian man and young woman wearing a leopard-print hijab rescued in Antakya after spending more than 200 hours beneath the wreckage.

One rescuer said that there might be further survivors to find.

However, UN officials have stated that the rescue phase is concluding, with the focus shifting to shelter, food, and education.

"Many people are struggling. Hassan Saimoua, a refugee residing with his family at a playground in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, stated, "We applied for a tent, aid, or something, but we haven't received anything as of yet."

Mr Saimoua and other Syrians who had sought asylum in Gaziantep from their civil conflict at home but were rendered homeless by the earthquake constructed improvised tents in the playground using plastic sheets, blankets, and cardboard.

Mr Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization's head for Europe, remarked, "The needs are enormous and growing by the hour."

"Approximately 26 million individuals in both countries require humanitarian aid.

Emerging health hazards related to cold weather, cleanliness and sanitation, and the transmission of infectious diseases are also a developing concern, with vulnerable populations, particularly at risk.

'Dad, aftershock!'

"Now, more patients are presenting with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the trauma they endured during the earthquake," he stated.

Families in Turkey and Syria reported that they and their children were coping with the psychological effects of the earthquake.

"Whenever he forgets, he hears a loud noise and then remembers," Mr Hassan Moaz of Aleppo, Syria, said of his nine-year-old son.

"When he hears a sound while sleeping at night, he wakes up and tells me, 'Dad, aftershock!'"

The first UN supply convoy entered rebel-held northwestern Syria through Turkey's newly-opened Bab al-Salam crossing.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed on Monday to permit UN supplies from Turkey to enter the rebel enclave through two additional border crossings, signalling a turnaround for Damascus, which has traditionally blocked cross-border aid deliveries.

The United Nations stated that the earthquake affected almost nine million people in Syria and launched a $400 million relief appeal.

Survivors' exodus

Mr Raed al Saleh, the head of the White Helmets primary rescue group, stated that the hunt for survivors in the northwest of Syria was close to concluding.

Russia also said it was winding down its search and rescue operations in Turkey and Syria and preparing to withdraw.

Erdogan stated that the death toll in Turkey was 35,3418. According to a Reuters tally of figures from official Syrian media and a UN agency, over 5,814 have perished in Syria.

Survivors joined a massive evacuation from earthquake-affected areas, leaving their homes unclear whether they would ever return.

"It is difficult... Hamza Bekry, a 22-year-old Syrian originally from Idlib who has resided in Antakya, in southern Turkey, for the past 12 years but is preparing to accompany his family to Isparta, in southern Turkey, stated, "We will start from scratch, with no possessions and no job."

Mr Erdogan stated that more than 2,2 million people have already fled the worst-affected districts and that hundreds of thousands of structures have become inhabitable.

Publish : 2023-02-15 08:51:00

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