Disasters & Accidents

Quake survivors rescued after 120 hours as officials warn of new crisis

Ankara, Feb 11 (EFE).- Rescue teams on Saturday continued to find survivors under the rubble more than 120 hours after the twin earthquakes hit Turkey, as officials and doctors again voiced concerns over potential for a public health disaster.

In Diyarbakir, 55-year-old Masallah Çiçek was rescued alive early Saturday morning from the ruins of her apartment, 122 hours after the first earthquake shook 10 provinces in the country’s southeast on Monday, the state Anadolu news agency reported.

Another rescue was broadcast live by Turkish television channels in the early morning as a 70-year-old woman was freed alive from under a collapsed building in Kahramanmaras province, also 122 hours after the earthquake.

The death toll now stands at 20,665 in Turkey, with more than 80,000 injured, according to the latest data from the country’s disaster agency AFAD.

Monday’s 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes were centered in Kahramanmaras and affected more than 13 million people in 10 provinces, an area larger than Portugal. It is feared that tens of thousands of victims are still under the rubble.

Despite the fact that more than 160,000 rescuers and emergency personnel work in the area, its enormous size, the level of destruction, the more than 1,800 aftershocks and freezing temperatures with destroyed infrastructure all complicate the situation.

In some areas rescue efforts have stopped and teams have begun to remove rubble, but other places have not seen much – or any – help at all.

Many of the roads leading to rural villages in the region are closed due to snowfall and the poor state of many mountain roads even before the earthquake complicates communications, Hurriyet newspaper reported Saturday.

Yilmaz Kurt, an emergency medical specialist who set up a field hospital in the Kahramanmaras village of Alçiçek, told EFE that while state and volunteer aid has reached cities, almost nothing has reached thousands of towns where people are struggling to survive.

He believes that while the death toll in smaller towns may be lower because traditional buildings held up better, the situation among survivors is getting worse by the day.

“As time goes by, health conditions threaten people,” he said.

In many localities, houses have become uninhabitable and alternatives such as tents have not arrived, and the lack of water and food also affects farm animals.

Given the lack of medicines, he said many villagers have also started taking medicines for animals, which is a problem.

Onder Isleyen, a member of the leadership of a small Turkish left-wing party, told EFE by telephone from the district of Defne, Hatay province, that he fears an epidemic could soon occur as there are no shops, no cleaning materials, no toilets – all a danger to public health.

According to specialists, portable toilets are a priority need, there is a large shortage of hygiene supplies and medicines, there is little water and tens of thousands of people are living out in the open in sub-zero temperatures.

Despite the abundance of volunteers in Hatay, there is no organization, equipment or materials, he said, and the rescue work is concentrated in main streets and the central areas.

In secondary streets, the works diminish and this is where people, whose relatives are in the rubble, beg for cranes, equipment specialists and excavators, he said.

“No one has yet gone to hundreds or thousands of villages,” he also warned.

World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Turkey, Batyr Berdyklychev, told Hurriyet that “the scale of the disaster and its consequences are enormous.”

“Reconstruction of hospitals and health facilities is a priority. Problems in the supply of clean water can increase the risk of disease and vaccine-preventable diseases,” he stressed.

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