Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll touches 41,000


 More than a week after the massive 7.8 earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, the death toll has crossed the 40,000 mark with voices still being heard from under the rubble in southern Turkey, offering a slight ray of hope of finding more survivors. Nine survivors were rescued from the rubble in Turkey on Tuesday and the focus of the aid effort has now been shifted to helping people now struggling without shelter or enough food in the bitter cold, reported news agency Reuters.

Rescue worker Salam Aldeen, who spent a week digging through the rubble in Antakya, Turkey, told USA Today international aid groups are helping desperate Turkish rescue teams working around the clock.

“I have never seen so much death and so many dead bodies in my entire life,” he said, crying as he spoke. “The conditions are like in an Armageddon movie; it’s unbelievable. The whole city smells of dead people,” Aldeen was quoted by USA Today as saying.

he disaster, with a combined death toll in Turkey and neighbouring Syria exceeding 41,000, has ravaged cities in both countries, leaving many survivors homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures. Rescue teams in southern Turkey said they are still hearing voices from under the rubble more than a week after the massive earthquake, reported CNN.

Those rescued on Tuesday included two brothers, aged 17 and 21, pulled from an apartment block in Kahramanmaras province, and a Syrian man and young woman in a leopard-print headscarf in Antakya rescued after over 200 hours in the rubble, reported Reuters. There could be further people alive still to find, said one rescuer.

A 77-year-old man and an 18-year-old boy were also pulled from the rubble in Turkey’s Adiyaman some 212 hours after the devastating earthquake, reports said.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking an election this year, said the situation is now under control. “We are facing one of the greatest natural disasters not only in our country but also in the history of humanity,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara.“We will continue our work until we get our last citizen out of the destroyed buildings,” the President said.

Families in both Turkey and Syria said they and their children were dealing with the psychological aftermath of the quake. “Whenever he forgets, he hears a loud sound and then remembers again,” Hassan Moaz said of his 9-year-old in Aleppo, Syria. “When he’s sleeping at night and hears a sound, he wakes up and tells me: “Dad, aftershock!”More than 2.2 million people have left the worst-hit areas already and hundreds of thousands of buildings have become uninhabitable.

The situation was particularly desperate in Syria, where a 12-year civil war has complicated relief efforts.On Tuesday, the United Nations launched a $397 million appeal to provide “desperately needed, life-saving relief for nearly 5 million Syrians” for three months, reported AP.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has decided to open “the two crossing points of Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee” between Turkey and northwest Syria for an initial period of three months to allow for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid. The United Nations said more than 7 million children have been affected by the Turkey-Syria quake.

India, under Operation Dost, continues to provide life-saving humanitarian medical assistance to quake-hit Turkey and Syria. Emergency Relief materials comprising life-saving medicines, protective items and critical care equipment valued at over Rs 7 crore were promptly dispatched to quake-hit nations.

“India is providing assistance to the two countries in the spirit of its age-old tradition of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” said Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.

(With agency inputs)