CITIZENS COMPASS– A painstaking effort to reach victims of a monster earthquake and several strong aftershocks continued Tuesday across a huge swath of southern Turkey and northern Syria. The death toll from the devastating earthquakes that struck early Monday morning soared over 7,000 a day later as crews raced to try to find survivors in the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings.
Aftershocks, including a magnitude 5.7 temblor that hit Tuesday, made the search for survivors even more dangerous.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that he was declaring a state of emergency for three months across 10 provinces in the earthquake zone. The country’s vice president, Fuat Oktay, told reporters that 8,000 people had been pulled from under rubble. He said there were 20,000 people taking part in the rescue efforts.
Tens of thousands of people were injured in the two nations and an untold number left homeless in harsh winter conditions.
Nations from around the world began pouring aid material and rescue teams into the region. Oktay said rescue teams from 14 countries were already in Turkey and teams from 70 more nations were expected as the day progressed.
Desperate survivors plead for help as rescue teams arrive, but not fast enough
Search teams and relief supplies started pouring in Tuesday from dozens of nations, including the United States, but people in some of the areas of Turkey and Syria hit hardest by Monday’s devastating earthquakes said they felt they had been left to fend for themselves.
“I can’t get my brother back from the ruins. I can’t get my nephew back. Look around here. There is no state official here, for God’s sake,” said Ali Sagiroglu in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras. “For two days we haven’t seen the state around here… Children are freezing from the cold.”
A winter storm was compounding the misery by rendering many roads — some of them damaged by the quake — almost impassable. The cold rain and snow were a risk both for people forced from their homes, who took refuge in mosques, schools or even bus shelters, and survivors buried under debris.
“My whole family is under there — my sons, my daughter, my son-in-law… There’s no one else to get them out,” said Ali Battal, in his 60s, his face streaked with blood and head swathed in a wool shawl against the bitter cold. “I hear their voices. I know they’re alive but there’s no one to rescue them.”
“It is now a race against time,” said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have activated the WHO network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care for the injured and most vulnerable,” he added.
Officials say death toll now over 7,200 across entire quake zone
The death toll from the massive earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria soared above 7,200 on Tuesday, and was still expected to rise as rescuers continued digging into buildings flattened by the temblors.
Turkey’s emergency management agency said the total number of deaths in the country had passed 5,400, with some 31,000 people injured.
In Syria, the quake-affected area is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by government forces and borders Turkey.
The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed over 800, with some 1,500 injured, according to the Health Ministry. At least 1,000 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to the White Helmets, the emergency organization leading rescue operations, with more than 2,400 injured.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected, and he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces.
For the entire quake-hit area, that number could be as high as 23 million people, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergencies officer with the World Health Organization.