Disasters & Accidents

Quake deaths exceed 33,000 as Turkey cracks down on contractors

(Update 1: Changes headline, changes lede, updates death toll, adds details throughout)

Beirut/Ankara, Feb 12 (EFE).- The death toll from earthquakes that struck part of Turkey and Syria surpassed 33,192 on Sunday, as Ankara vowed to pursue contractors linked to deadly building collapses.

United Nations aid chief Martin Griffith has warned that the death toll could “double or more” during a visit to Turkey’s worst-hit province of Kahramanmaras.

“I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble but I’m sure it will double or more,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told Sky News on Saturday.

“That’s terrifying. This is nature striking back in a really harsh way,” he added.

In Turkey, some 29,605 deaths and more than 80,000 injuries have been recorded so far, according to Turkish disaster authority AFAD, making the two earthquakes that hit the southeastern part of the country on Monday the deadliest since 1939.

Meanwhile, survivors continued to be found.

An eight-year-old was rescued from the rubble in the Nurdagi town in the province of Gaziantep, 155 hours after the quake.

A child was pulled alive in the southeastern Turkish province of Hatay after 150 hours under the rubble, two hours before two sisters aged, 22 and 28, were saved in Adiyaman city.

A 12-year-old Syrian boy also survived after being trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building in Hatay for 147 hours.

In war-ravaged Syria, at least 3,575 people have died and around 5,300 were injured. Syrian victims are mostly registered in rebel-controlled northwestern areas, where the White Helmets civil defense force ended rescue efforts on Saturday.

“We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived,” Griffiths wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

“My duty and our obligation is to correct this failure as fast as we can. That’s my focus now.”

The White Helmets, which works in opposition-held areas, said the death toll in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo had risen to 2,167 with over 2,950 injured. Another 1,408 people died and 2,341 others were wounded in areas controlled by the government of president Bashar al-Assad.

According to the official Syrian news agency Sana, a convoy of three trucks carrying humanitarian assistance sent by Italy for those affected by the earthquakes has arrived in Syria through its land border with Lebanon.

“Three trucks arrive at Jdeidet Yabous border crossing loaded with Italian relief aid that arrived yesterday at Beirut International Airport,” Sana said in a post to Twitter, giving no further details.

The Syrian Red Crescent, meanwhile, tweeted: “The first ever European shipment of assistances reached #Syria today.”

The first earthquake hit early on Monday with a 7.7-magnitude, followed by another 7.6-magnitude quake, with hundreds of aftershocks registered since the first tremor, according to Turkish disaster authority AFAD.

So far, more than 110 arrest warrants have been issued after the Turkish prosecutor’s office launched a special unit to investigate alleged construction negligence after more than 6,000 buildings were toppled by the quakes, Oktay said.


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