Death toll exceeds 23,700 as rescue of Turkey and Syria continues | News about earthquakes

The confirmed death toll in Turkey and northwestern Syria from the region’s deadliest earthquake in 20 years has risen to more than 23,700, four days after it struck, according to officials.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake in the early hours of Monday, as well as several strong aftershocks, surpassed the more than 17,000 killed in 1999, when a similar earthquake struck northwestern Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted during a visit to Adiyaman province on Friday that the government’s response could have been better.

“Although we currently have the largest search and rescue team in the world, the reality is that search efforts are not as fast as we would like,” he said.

Al Jazeera reporter Resul Serdar said rescue teams had become “frantic” as hope of finding survivors faded by the hour.

Rescuers were “digging through the rubble and hoping to find some people dead or alive because it’s been more than 96 hours and hope is fading,” he said, standing outside a collapsed block of buildings in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, near the epicenter of the first magnitude 7 earthquake. 8.

“Families are here, anxiously waiting,” he added. “The scale of the destruction is beyond imagination.”

A little later, rescuers managed to pull a man alive from under the rubble 110 hours after the earthquake, Serdar said.

Al Jazeera journalist Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said entire families were lost.

“We talked to a woman here. She said: ‘I have four of my brothers, my mother, my cousins ​​and all her nieces and nephews … they all disappeared in an instant when the building completely collapsed on itself.’

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, criticized the government’s response.

“The earthquake was huge, but what was much bigger than the earthquake was the lack of coordination, lack of planning and incompetence,” Kilicdaroglu said in a statement.

With anger simmering over delays in delivering aid and launching rescue efforts, the disaster is likely to affect Erdogan’s re-election bid, with a vote scheduled for May 14. The election may now be postponed due to the disaster.

‘We can’t cope’

The number of deaths in Turkey rose to 20,213 on Friday, the country’s health minister said. More than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria. Many more people remained under the rubble.

In Syria, the government on Friday approved the delivery of humanitarian aid across the front lines of the country’s 12-year war, a move that could speed the arrival of aid to millions of desperate people.

The World Food Program said earlier that supplies were running out in rebel-held northwestern Syria as the war complicated aid efforts.

dr. Mohamed Alabrash, a general surgeon at the central hospital in Idlib, northwest Syria, issued an urgent appeal for help.

“We are facing a shortage of medicines and instruments,” he told Al Jazeera. “The hospital is full of patients, as is the intensive care unit.”

“We cannot handle this number of patients. The patients’ injuries are very serious and we need more support.”

The doctor said that the medical workers at the facility were under a lot of pressure, working around the clock.

“All medical staff are working 24 hours a day and we have used up all the supplies we have, from medicine to intensive care supplies,” Alabrash said, adding that the hospital’s generators had almost run out of fuel.

Hope amidst the ruins

Rescuers, including teams from dozens of countries, worked day and night in the rubble of thousands of destroyed buildings to find buried survivors. In the low temperatures, they regularly called for silence as they listened for the sound of life from the disfigured concrete mounds.

In Turkey’s Samandag district, rescuers crouched under concrete slabs whispering “Inshallah” (God willing) and carefully reached into the rubble to pull out the 10-day-old baby.

With his eyes wide open, baby Yagiz Ulas was wrapped in a thermal blanket and taken to a field hospital. The emergency workers also took his mother away, dazed and pale, but conscious on a stretcher, the video showed.

Across the border in Syria, rescuers from the White Helmets dug through plaster and cement with their hands until they reached the bare feet of the young girl, who was still wearing pink pajamas, dirty but alive.

But hopes that many others would be found alive were fading.

In the Syrian town of Jandaris, Naser al-Wakaa sobbed as he sat on the pile of rubble and twisted metal that was his family’s home, burying his face in the baby clothes that belonged to one of his children.

“Bilal, oh Bilal,” he sobbed, calling out the name of one of his dead children.

The head of the Turkish Humanitarian Aid Foundation, Bulent Yildirim, went to Syria to see the impact there. “It was like a missile was dropped on every single building,” he said.

About 24.4 million people in Syria and Turkey have been affected, according to Turkish officials and the United Nations, in an area stretching roughly 450 km (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east.

In Syria, people died as far south as Hama, 250 km (155 miles) from the epicenter.

Hundreds of thousands more people were left homeless and without food in the bleak winter conditions, and leaders of both countries faced questions about their response.

Many people have set up shelters in supermarket parking lots, mosques, roadsides or amid the rubble. Many survivors are desperate for food, water and warmth.

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