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Rescuers race to find survivors as earthquake death toll passes 5,000

Rescuers race to find survivors as earthquake death toll passes 5,000

NOORDAG, Turkey (AP) – Search teams and emergency aid from around the world poured into Turkey and Syria on Tuesday as rescuers worked in freezing temperatures – sometimes with their bare hands – flattened by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake Through the remains of buildings. The death toll rose above 5,000 and was still expected to rise.

But with the damage spread over a wide area, massive relief operations often struggled to reach devastated cities, and wails of screams were muffled by the rubble.

“We could hear their voices, they were calling for help,” said Ali Sailo, whose two relatives could not be saved in the Turkish town of Nurdag.

Finally, a Syrian silo and other residents who had come from Hama a decade earlier were released to recover the bodies of the victims and two other victims.

Monday’s earthquake cut a swath of destruction hundreds of kilometers (miles) across southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, toppling thousands of buildings and heaping more misery on a region wracked by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

Aftershocks shook tangled piles of metal and concrete, making search efforts dangerous, while the freezing temperatures made them all the more urgent.

The scale of the suffering โ€“ and the accompanying rescue effort โ€“ was staggering.

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said that in Turkey alone more than 8,000 people had been pulled from the rubble and about 380,000 had taken shelter in government shelters or hotels. They gathered in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres, while others spent the night outside gathered around fires in blankets.

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Many took to social media to plead for help for loved ones trapped under the rubble โ€“ and Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted interior ministry officials as saying all calls were being “carefully collected”. were found and the search teams were informed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million had been affected in some way – and declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces to manage the response.

For the entire quake-hit region, this number could be as high as 23 million people, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergency official at the World Health Organization.

“This is one crisis on top of many in the affected region,” Marschang said in Geneva.

Teams from around 30 countries around the world left for Turkey or Syria.

As promises of help flooded in, Turkey said it would only allow vehicles carrying aid to enter the worst-affected Kahramanmaras, Adฤฑyaman and Hatay provinces to speed up the effort.

The United Nations said it was “exploring all avenues” to get supplies into rebel-held northwestern Syria, where millions live in extreme poverty and depend on humanitarian aid to survive.

Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press that she could hear her mother’s voice under the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, but her and others’ efforts to enter the ruins were unsuccessful. The pressure had gone in vain. Tools to help.

“If we could only lift the concrete slab we would be able to reach it,” he said. “My mother is 70 years old, she won’t be able to take it for long.”

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But a girl named Nour was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building on Monday in the town of Jindris in northwestern Syria.

A rescuer cradled her head in his hands and gently wiped the dust from around her eyes as she lay amid crushed concrete and bent metal and was pulled out and walked to another man.

Turkey has a large number of troops in the border region with Syria and has tasked the army with assisting with rescue efforts, including setting up tents for the homeless and a field hospital in Hatay province. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said an Ankara-based humanitarian aid brigade and eight military search and rescue teams had also been deployed.

A navy ship stopped on Tuesday at the province’s Iskenderun port, where a hospital collapsed, to transport survivors in need of medical care to a nearby town. Thick, black smoke billowed from another area of โ€‹โ€‹the port, where firefighters have not yet been able to douse a blaze between shipping containers caused by the quake.

Meanwhile, in northern Syria, Sebastian Gay, the head of mission in the country for Doctors Without Borders, said health facilities were “overwhelmed with medical personnel working around the clock to respond to the huge number of wounded.”

The affected area in Syria is split between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey is home to millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

The rebel-held enclave is filled with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many live in buildings that had already been damaged by military bombardment.

Erdogan said the total death toll in Turkey had risen to more than 3,500, while nearly 22,000 people were injured.

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According to the Ministry of Health, the death toll in government-held areas of Syria exceeded 800, while around 1,400 were injured. At least 800 people also died in the country’s rebel-held northwest, according to the White Helmets, the emergency organization leading the rescue operations, with more than 2,200 injured.

The region lies on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. A similarly powerful earthquake in 1999 in northwest Turkey killed about 18,000 people.

The US Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8 magnitude, with a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles). Hours later, another earthquake, possibly triggered earlier, occurred more than 100 kilometers (60 mi) away with a magnitude of 7.5.

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