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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Hope fades as earthquake toll passes 11,000

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concedes shortfalls early on in the response but vows that no one would ‘be left in the streets’

AP/PTI Published 09.02.23, 01:11 AM
Tayyip Erdogan.

Tayyip Erdogan. File Photo

With hope fading to find survivors, stretched rescue teams toiled through the night in Turkiye and Syria, searching for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by a catastrophic earthquake.

The death toll rose Wednesday to more than 11,000 in the deadliest quake worldwide in more than a decade.

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Amid calls for the Turkish government to send more help to the disaster zone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured a “tent city” in Kahramanmaras where people forced from their homes are living. He conceded shortfalls early on in the response but vowed that no one would “be left in the streets”.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel, and aid pledges have poured in from around the world. But the scale of destruction from the 7.8 magnitude quake and its powerful aftershocks was so immense — and spread so wide, including in areas isolated by Syria’s ongoing civil war — that many are still waiting for help.

In the Turkish city of Malatya, bodies were placed side by side on the ground, covered in blankets, while rescuers waited for funeral vehicles to pick them up, according to former journalist Ozel Pikal who saw eight bodies pulled from the ruins of the building.

Pikal, who took part in the rescue efforts, said he believes at least some of the victims may have frozen to death as temperatures dipped to minus 6° Celsius.

“Today isn’t a pleasant day, because as of today there is no hope left in Malatya,” Pikal told the AP by telephone. “No one is coming out alive from the rubble.”

Pikal said a hotel building collapsed in the city, and more than a hundred people may be trapped. There was a shortage of rescuers in the area he was in, and the cold hampered rescue efforts by volunteers and government teams, he said. Road closures and damage in the region have also impeded mobility and access.

“Our hands cannot pick up anything because of the cold,” said Pikal. “Work machines are needed.”

The scale of suffering was staggering in a region already beset by more than a decade of civil war in Syria that has displaced millions within the country and sent more to seek refuge in Turkey. With thousands of buildings toppled, it was not clear how many people might still be trapped underneath the rubble.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said the death toll passed 8,500. The Syrian health ministry said the death toll in government-held areas has climbed past 1,200, while at least 1,400 people have died in the northwest.

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