Syria -Turkiye Earthquake – death toll reached 26,000 while rescuers continue working hard to save lives under rubble

Rescue teams are still searching rubble for survivors as freezing cold threaten the lives of thousands of survivors who are now without shelter, water and food.

Syria / Turkey, 12th Feb 2023 (The HeadQuarters News) – as five days passed after one of the region’s worst natural disaster the death toll in the earthquake hit Syria and Turkiye has reached 26,000 and predicted to double as per U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths.

Rescuers from many countries of the world and volunteers from within Syria and Turkiye pulled lesser numbers of survivors from earthquake rubble on the fifth day after the tragic earthquake.

Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake, with several powerful aftershocks across  Syria and Turkiye is the world’s seventh deadliest natural disaster in this century, approaching the 31,000 killed by a quake in neighbouring Iran in 2003.

With a death toll so far of 22,327 inside Turkey, it is the country’s deadliest earthquake since 1939. More than 3,500 have died in Syria, where tolls have not been updated since Friday.

Earthquake rescue operations and status in Syria:

In Syria, the earthquake hit hardest in the opposition-held northwest, leaving many homeless for a second time after already being massively affected by the  ongoing civil war in the country – making the rescue efforts and the relief operations by the willing from the world almost impossible.

The first two days the people slept in the streets and some having the privilege of owning a car slept in their cars  and later had to sleep in other people’s homes.

In the government-controlled Syrian city of Aleppo, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the disaster as heartbreaking as he supervised some relief distribution and committed for more.

The first European earthquake assistance to the Syrian government was from Italy – a shipment of Italian aid landed in Beirut as per Italy’s envoy to Damascus. Western nations have largely shunned President Bashar al-Assad during the war that began in 2011.

The northwest has received little aid, compared to the dozens of planeloads that have arrived in areas held by the Syrian government – many of them from Arab countries, Russia, Iran, India and Bangladesh as per sources.

Islamic Republic of Pakistan is one of the few countries which have started relief activities for Syria immediately after the tragic earthquake.  Pakistan dispatched  relief goods to quake-hit Syria containing food packets, blankets, tents and other humanitarian assistance.

Earthquake rescue operations and status in Turkiye:

In Antakya (the southern Turkish city) there is chaos, rubble and bodies everywhere, body bags lay on streets and residents wore masks against the smell of death as they joined rescuers who had still to reach some buildings.

In Kahramanmaras, close to the earthquake epicenter in Turkey, there were lesser active rescue operations amid the smashed concrete mounds of fallen houses and apartment blocks. A concrete building having become rubble was  burrowed by rescuers and a five year-old girl still alive was rescued who was  lifted on a stretcher, wrapped in foil amidst chants “ALLAH (God) is Greatest”.

The number of survivors on Saturday was very few while majority is of dead bodies as being under thousands of tonnes rubble for so many days without food water has killed those too who were stuck alive not being seriously wounded under the rubble.

Some rescue organizations suspended rescue operations citing reports of clashes between groups of people, gunfire and looting (some looters seen carrying knives in Antakya), as per sources.

On the other hand the government of Turkiye has massive Police and soldiers on field to ensure law and order, provide security and also participating in rescue operations and food distribution.

As per Turkiye officials about 80,000 people were in hospital, with more than 1 million in temporary shelters.

Outside Antakya, workers at a mass grave lowered bodybags into a freshly dug trench which were covered with earth using heavy machinery.

New graves also covered a hillside outside Gaziantep, some marked with flowers or small Turkish flags flapping in the breeze and the relatives of the dead having survived seen in severe distress.

As the infrastructure in these cities of Turkiye is massively destroyed the toilets and clean water facilities are not available to all the people who survived the earthquake. These survivors now fear to become victim to the injuries, the infections, the diseases.

The world and the Turkish government must increase attention for the relief and settlement of the survivors urgently to avoid further loss of precious lives and to avoid any pandemic.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths described the earthquake as the worst event in 100 years in the region. He praised Turkey’s response, saying it was his experience that people in disaster zones were always disappointed early in relief efforts.

He predicted the death toll would at least double.

Turkiye is being hit by this tragic disaster and the nation is in mourning while the national election is scheduled for June 2023 which will make the struggle for Erdogan led government success very tough as Turkiye even prior to the earthquake was facing soaring cost of living and a slumping Turkish currency.

Turkiye population in the quake zone and opposition politicians have accused the government of slow and inadequate relief early on – in response to which Erdogan has acknowledged some problems, notably getting aid into a region where transport links were damaged, but said the situation was subsequently brought under control and advised his critics to avoid politics and be united for the larger interest of the nation at this critical time.

The Turkiye government has also started action against authorities and officials having allowed weaker/ low quality building construction in these cities worst hit by the earthquake  and state prosecutors in Adana ordered the detention of 62 people in an investigation into collapsed buildings, while prosecutors sought the arrest of 33 people in Diyarbakir for the same reason as per sources.

Rescue teams are still searching rubble for survivors as freezing cold threaten the lives of thousands of survivors who are now without shelter, water and food.