Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria fifth day: What do we know so far? | News about earthquakes

Rescuers dug through the rubble for a fifth straight day to find more survivors of the devastating earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people and leveled entire cities in Turkey and Syria this week.

Operations resumed on Friday, but hopes of finding the people alive are fading.

“This collapsed building was a cemetery,” said Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, reporting from Kahramanmaras, a Turkish city near the epicenter of Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. A second 7.6-magnitude quake followed a few hours later amid hundreds of aftershocks. “Dozens of people were taken out [of the rubble]but they were all dead,” said Serdar.

Yet there is room for hope amid the destruction. An 18-month-old baby and her family members were pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building in the Antakya district of Hatay in southern Turkey after being trapped for 96 hours, Anadolu Agency reported.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know on the fifth day of the rescue:

What do we know about the victims?

The death toll from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the “disaster of the century”, has exceeded 21,500.

At least 18,342 people have been killed in Turkey, according to Vice President Fuat Oktay, while at least 3,377 are known to have died in Syria.

By comparison, 18,400 people died in the 2011 Fukushima earthquake in Japan, which caused a tsunami, and an estimated 18,000 people died in the 1999 earthquake in Izmit, Turkey.

Tens of thousands were also injured in Monday’s disaster, and many tens of thousands were left homeless.

What do we know about rescue operations?

Winter weather and damage to roads and airports made it difficult for rescuers to respond. Some in Turkey have complained that the government has been slow to respond – a perception that could hurt Erdogan as he faces a tough re-election fight in May.

The president has been visiting the affected cities for the last two days.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said more than 110,000 rescuers would join the effort with more than 5,500 vehicles, including tractors, cranes, bulldozers and excavators. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that 95 countries had offered to help.

Although experts say trapped people could survive for a week or more, the chances of finding survivors in the freezing temperatures are dwindling, and emergency crews are now beginning to shift their focus to demolishing dangerously unstable structures.

In Kahramanmaras, a sports hall the size of a basketball court served as a makeshift morgue for housing and identifying bodies.

In the Turkish city of Antakya, dozens fought for help in front of a truck distributing children’s coats and other necessities. One survivor, Ahmet Tokgoz, called on the government to evacuate people from the region.

Many of those left homeless took shelter in tents, stadiums and other temporary accommodation, but others slept in the open.

International aid

The United States on Thursday announced an initial $85 million emergency aid package for the two affected countries and is also temporarily lifting some of its Syria-related sanctions, hoping to help get aid to those affected as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the World Bank announced $1.78 billion in aid to Turkey to help with relief and recovery efforts.

The head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, called on the international community to provide more money for Turkey and Syria, and to expand the access of aid to reach the earthquake-affected parts of Syria.

Humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria

Providing aid to opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria has proven highly problematic.

Residents of Jindires, one of the worst-hit areas in Syria, have been left on their hands to search for survivors under collapsed buildings and plead for international aid after the deadly earthquakes.

The first convoy of six trucks made it through the Bab al-Hawa crossing – the only UN-sanctioned crossing – on Thursday, but it provided little relief.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said in a statement that the funding will go to partners on the ground “to deliver urgently needed assistance to millions of people,” including food, shelter and emergency health services.

Accumulation of tragedies

The quake brought misery of a different kind to people in Syria’s Idlib province, where the collapse of a dam caused a river to overflow its banks and flood homes, Al Jazeera’s Sohaib al-Khalaf reports.

The earthquake and floodwaters from the Asi River (also known as the Orontes River) destroyed more than 20 houses in the village of al-Tlul and flooded many others, according to al-Khalaf.

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