Disasters & Accidents

Rescuers race time, battle cold in Turkey, Syria quake rescue efforts

Ankara/Beirut, Feb 8 (EFE).- In freezing temperatures and amid destroyed infrastructure, rescue teams were battling on Wednesday to find and pull people from mountains of earthquake rubble in Turkey and Syria as the death rose to more than 9,000.

In Turkey, where the magnitude-7.7 and 7.6 tremors struck the southeast near the Syrian border, the latest official count put the number of fatalities at 6,957 and injured at 38,224 across 11 provinces, according to the country’s disaster agency AFAD on Wednesday.

Rescue teams have pulled some 8,000 people out alive from almost 6,000 destroyed buildings and are racing to save those still trapped in temperatures as low as -6 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, survivors are dealing with destroyed basic infrastructure.

More than 640 aftershocks have been recorded in the affected areas where more than 96,000 emergency services personnel and volunteers are working on search and rescue and debris-removal tasks, operations for which more than 120 aircraft and 10 ships have been deployed.

Some 5,309 personnel sent from foreign countries are also working in disaster areas, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was heading to inspect post-quake efforts.

In Syria, the death toll rose to some 2,470 on Wednesday and the number of injured now stands at more than 4,000, various sources reported, while hundreds of people remain trapped in the rubble more than 48 hours after the initial quake.

In the areas of the northwestern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, under the control of the opposition, surrounded by Russia-backed government forces and bordering Turkey,1,280 people have been confirmed dead and more than 2,600 injured, according to the latest count from the White Helmets rescue group.

They warned that “hundreds of families” are still trapped under the remains of collapsed buildings, so the toll is expected to continue to increase significantly.

“We still hear the cries for help from those trapped under the rubble. Many of our own families and neighbors have not survived. Thousands in #Syria are dead. Thousands more are missing,” it said, appealing for donations.

In some good news, a family of six as well as a child were rescued alive in Idlib, the White Helmets said alongside videos and photos posted on Twitter.

Since Monday, planes carrying aid have arrived in Syria from Algeria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Iraq and Iran, in addition to assistance from Russia and India, while Lebanon also has dozens of troops on the ground helping in the rescue efforts, according to state news agency SANA.

It was unclear, however, if any of this aid would reach the badly affected opposition-held areas, despite the promises of the country’s representative to the United Nations.

President Bashar al-Assad has called for the lifting of international sanctions in order to expedite the arrival of supplies to Damascus-controlled areas.

Even before the earthquakes, Syria was suffering its worst humanitarian crisis since the outbreak of riots against Damascus in 2011 and the subsequent start of the civil war, with 90 percent of the population plunged into poverty, shortages of basic products and millions of displaced people. EFE


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