Miracle rescues over a week later as Turkiye, Syria quake deaths pass 35,000

ANKARA, 14 Feb 2023:

The confirmed death toll from the twin earthquakes that devastated parts of southern Turkiye and northern Syria one week ago rose to more than 35,000 as rescuers found more survivors under the rubble yesterday.

Amid biting winter conditions, search and rescue teams pulled a woman from the rubble of a collapsed building in Antakya some 176 hours after the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 quakes struck the area hours apart, the state-run Turkish Anadolu news agency reported.

Two other women were also rescued several hours earlier, it added.

Turkiye’s disaster response unit Afad yesterday said at least 31,643 people had died as a result of the temblors last week.

Ahmet Ovgun Ercan, a renowned professor of geophysics at the Istanbul Technical University, warned on Twitter that there could be as many as 155,000 bodies still under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects said unregulated constructions and successive amnesties granted by the government to unlicensed buildings contributed to the high death toll in the 10 Turkish provinces rocked by the quakes.

“The main reason for this enormous tragedy is the permissions granted to buildings built without respecting construction regulations,” noted Emin Koramaz, president of the union.

Across the border in Syria, the quakes have killed at least 3,575 but the government and the White Helmets civil defense organisation operative in rebel-held zones of the war-struck nation have stopped providing regular updates.

Sources from the Islamist Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham organisation in control of swathes of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province said the death toll in the region was likely many times higher than that reported by the White Helmets.

The US on Sunday called for a UN Security Council vote to reopen more border crossings into rebel-held areas of Syria.

Presently, only one border crossing connects Turkiye’s Hatay province with Idlib. Further to the south, logistics are complicated by the front-line with Syrian government forces loyal to president Bashar Al Assad.

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with Assad in Damascus on Sunday to discuss aid deliveries and said he planned to visit rebel-held territory in northwest Syria.

“I am waiting to move across lines to the northwest, where we have been told the impact is even worse.”