Turkey earthquake death toll: Earthquake death toll tops 5,000 as Turkey and Syria scramble for survivors
ADANA, Turkey — Rescue workers scrambled Tuesday to find survivors in the rubble of thousands of buildings destroyed by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks that battered eastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, with the discovery of more bodies adding to the death toll increased to more than 5,000.
Countries around the world were dispatching teams to help with the rescue effort, and Turkey’s Civil Protection Agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel are now on the ground. But with such a large area hit by Monday’s earthquake and nearly 6,000 buildings confirmed to have collapsed in Turkey alone, their efforts have been thin on the ground.
Attempts to reach survivors were also hampered by freezing temperatures and nearly 200 aftershocks, making searching through unstable structures dangerous.
Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press she could hear her mother’s voice under the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Antakya, capital of Hatay province, but her and other efforts to get into the ruins had been in vain without rescue workers and heavy equipment to help.
“If we could just lift the concrete slab, we could reach them,” she said. “My mother is 70 years old, she won’t be able to stand it for long.”
Across Hatay province, southwest of the quake’s epicenter, officials said up to 1,500 buildings were destroyed and many people reported relatives were trapped under the rubble, with no relief or rescue teams arriving.
In areas where teams were working, cheers occasionally erupted throughout the night as survivors were pulled from the rubble.
The quake, concentrated in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the streets and was felt as far away as Cairo.
Sebastien Gay, MSF’s head of mission in Syria, said health facilities in northern Syria were overwhelmed with medical staff working “around the clock to respond to the large number of wounded.”
In Turkey’s Hatay province, thousands of people took refuge in sports centers or exhibition halls, while others spent the night outside, huddled in blankets around fires.
Turkey has large numbers of troops in the border region with Syria and has tasked the military with helping with rescue efforts, including setting up tents for the homeless and a field hospital in Hatay province. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said a humanitarian assistance brigade based in Ankara and eight military search and rescue teams were also deployed.
A naval ship docked at the port in Iskenderun province on Tuesday, where a hospital collapsed to transport survivors in need of medical care to the nearby city of Mersin. Thick, black smoke billowed from another area of the port, where firefighters were still unable to put out a fire that broke out under shipping containers overturned by the earthquake.
In the Turkish provincial capital Gaziantep, about 33 kilometers from the epicenter, people fled to shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centers.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total number of deaths in Turkey rose to 3,419 with another 20,534 injured.
The death toll in government-held areas of Syria rose to 812 people, according to the health ministry, with around 1,450 injured. In the rebel-held northwest of the country, the opposition Syrian Civil Defense or White Helmets, the medic group leading rescue operations, said at least 790 were killed and more than 2,200 injured.
That brought the total to 5,021.
Authorities fear the death toll will continue to rise as rescuers search for survivors in a region ravaged by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
In recent pledges of international aid, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he was preparing to quickly deploy a 60-strong search and rescue team, as well as medical supplies and 50 soldiers. The Pakistani government sent a flight with relief supplies and a 50-strong search and rescue team early Tuesday and said there would be daily relief flights to Syria and Turkey from Wednesday. India said it would send two search and rescue teams, including specially trained dogs and medical staff.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will travel to Ankara on Wednesday to offer his condolences and solidarity, according to a statement from Islamabad.
US President Joe Biden called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences and assistance to the NATO ally. The White House said it is dispatching search and rescue teams to support Turkey’s efforts.
The quake has added further misery to a region that has endured tremendous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the affected area is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey is home to millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war.
Hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble in the rebel-held enclave, the opposition emergency organization known as the White Helmets said in a statement. The area is crowded with about 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many live in buildings that have already been damaged by military bombing.
Strained medical centers quickly filled with the injured, emergency workers said. Some facilities had to be evacuated, including a maternity hospital, according to the medical organization SAMW.
More than 7,800 people were rescued in 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s Disaster Management Agency.
The region lies on major fault lines and is frequently rocked by earthquakes. About 18,000 people died in 1999 in similarly powerful earthquakes in north-west Turkey.
The US Geological Survey measured the quake on Monday as having a magnitude of 7.8 and a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles). Hours later, another 7.5 magnitude quake, likely triggered by the first, struck more than 100 kilometers away.
The second blast caused a multi-story apartment building in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to collapse onto the street in a cloud of dust as bystanders screamed, according to video of the scene.
Thousands of buildings have reportedly collapsed in a wide area stretching from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) northeast.
Alsayed reported from Azmarin, Syria, while Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers David Rising in Bangkok, Zeynep Bilginsoy and Robert Badendieck in Istanbul, Bassem Mroue and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut, Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, and Riazat Butt in Islamabad contributed to this report.
The video in the player above is from a previous report.
Copyright © 2023 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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