Quake rescue efforts winding down, over 80,000 saved

ANKARA, 15 Feb 2023:

Rescuers in Turkiye pulled two women alive from under the rubble yesterday – nine days after two devastating earthquakes and a cascade of aftershocks struck Turkiye and war-ravaged Syria, leaving almost 36,000 dead.

A 35-year-old woman was rescued and taken to a hospital after being trapped 205 hours beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the worst-hit Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, according to local media.

In the province of Hatay, a Syrian refugee was saved 204 hours after the building she was in was flattened by the earthquake.

Earlier in the day, three young people were rescued after spending 198 hours in the rubble.

Two brothers, aged 17 and 20, were transferred to a hospital with varying degrees of injuries after they were pulled out in Kahramanmaras. Minutes later, an 18-year-old boy was plucked from the ruins in Adiyaman.

So far, more than 80,000 people have been saved in Turkiye’s 10 quake-stricken provinces.

It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of people still trapped beneath the rubble, but rescue missions have been halted in most areas and foreign helpers have started to return home.

With many people left homeless in the frigid cold, Tezcan Candan, head of the Ankara Chamber of Architects, told Halk TV: “Under the freezing winter conditions, the main need now is tents”.

“May your gift for Valentine’s day be a tent for the earthquake victims,” Candan said after visiting the affected areas.

“Nothing can describe what we see. There is no one on the streets here. Yesterday, we were in Hatay. There is no city anymore.

“The government is blaming some constructors to evade responsibility. If the necessary scientific measures were taken, so many people would not be dead. It is a mass murder.”

Vice president Fuat Oktay said tents have been set up in 257 locations so far.

The first earthquake hit early on Feb 6 with a 7.7-magnitude, followed by another 7.6-magnitude quake, with hundreds of aftershocks registered since the first tremor, according to Turkish disaster authority AFAD.

In Turkiye alone, some 31,643 deaths and more than 80,000 injuries have been recorded so far, AFAD said, making the two earthquakes that hit the southeastern part of the country the deadliest since 1939.

More than 11,000 buildings were toppled in the catastrophe.

German analysis firm Risklayer has warned the death toll could reach up to 90,000, while Turkish experts expect it would likely be as high as 155,000.

Over the weekend, contractors were arrested on suspicion of negligence linked to toppled buildings in Turkiye.

The arrests came after mounting criticism and anger towards president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government with citizens saying more could have been done to manage the disaster and save more lives.

The brewing anger could be pivotal in the looming May presidential elections where Erdogan will be seeking a third term.

– EFE