Turkey-Syria earthquake kills 28,000 so far, millions need aid

A race against time to find a missing body south of Turley

Kahramanmaras, Turkey:

Rescuers pulled a seven-month-old baby and a teenage girl from the rubble on Sunday, nearly a week after earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed more than 28,000 people.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers were scouring flattened neighborhoods, even as freezing weather deepened the misery of millions of people in dire need of aid.

Some aid operations were suspended due to security concerns and dozens were arrested for looting or trying to defraud victims after the earthquake in Turkey, state media reported.

But amidst the devastation and despair, there are still stories of miraculous survival.

“Is the world out there?” asked 70-year-old Menekse Tabak as she was pulled from the rubble in the southern city of Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake, according to a video from state broadcaster TRT Haber. Praise God with clapping and crying.

A seven-month-old baby named Hamza was also rescued in Hatay, while 13-year-old Esma Sultan was rescued in Gaziantep more than 140 hours after the quake, state media reported.

In southern Turkey, families are racing against time to find the remains of missing relatives.

“We heard that (the authorities) will no longer keep the bodies waiting after a while, they said they will take them and bury them,” Tubayorku said in Kahramanmaras.

Another family hugged in grief in a cotton field turned into a cemetery as a seemingly endless stream of bodies awaited a quick burial.

26 million people affected

At least 870,000 people in Turkey and Syria are in dire need of hot meals, the United Nations has warned. In Syria alone, as many as 5.3 million people are homeless.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that nearly 26 million people had been affected by the quake and made an urgent appeal for $42.8 million to address immediate health needs.

It warned that dozens of hospitals had been damaged.

More than 32,000 people from Turkish organizations are working in the search and rescue effort, Turkey’s disaster agency said. There are also 8,294 international aid workers.

In Gaziantep, Turkey’s culinary capital, restaurants are hard at work among tens of thousands of volunteers to help support families.

“We want to help,” said Burhan Cagdas, owner of a local restaurant.

“Our colleagues are in a terrible situation. Their families are the victims, their houses have been destroyed,” he said.

Cagdas’ own family has been sleeping in cars since Monday, killing at least 2,000 people in the city and forcing tens of thousands from their unsafe homes.

Their Imam Cagdas restaurant is famous for their Alinazik eggplant and meat stew, and they’ve been serving up to 4,000 free meals a day outdoors since Monday.

Clashes were also reported, with the UN human rights office on Friday urging all actors in the affected area – where Kurdish militants and Syrian rebels operate – to allow humanitarian aid in.

Austrian soldiers and German rescuers called off several hours of searching south of Hatay on Saturday, citing a difficult security situation amid gun battles between local groups.

The outlawed PKK, considered a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, has announced a temporary halt to fighting to ease recovery efforts.

The border crossing between Armenia and Turkey also opened for the first time in 35 years on Saturday, allowing five trucks carrying food and water to enter the quake-hit zone.

Medical assistance in Aleppo

Aid has been slow to reach Syria, where years of conflict have ravaged the medical system and parts of the country remain under rebel control.

On Saturday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus flew to the quake-hit city of Aleppo aboard a plane loaded with emergency medical equipment.

Tedros toured affected areas of the city and met two children who lost their parents in the quake.

“No words can express the pain they are going through,” he tweeted.

Damascus said it had approved humanitarian aid to quake-hit areas outside its control in Idlib province and the convoy was expected to depart on Sunday. Delivery was later delayed without explanation.

In the Syrian capital, the transport ministry said 57 aid planes landed in the country this week.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to authorize the opening of a new cross-border aid point between Turkey and Syria. The Security Council is likely to meet early next week to discuss Syria.

Turkey says it is working to open two new routes to rebel-held areas in Syria.

anger builds

Five days of grief and pain escalated into anger over poor construction and the government’s response to Turkey’s worst disaster in nearly a century.

Officials said 12,141 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged in the quake.

Turkish police reportedly detained 12 people, including contractors, on collapsed buildings in the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa on Saturday.

Officials and medical staff said 24,617 people had died in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria. The total confirmed so far is 28,191.

(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)

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