Crews find survivors, many dead after earthquake in Turkey, Syria

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Fragile rescue teams worked through the night until Wednesday, pulling more bodies from the rubble of thousands of buildings collapsed in Turkey and Syria by the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 7,700 people. Their grim mission is sometimes punctuated by the joy of finding someone still alive.

Nearly two days after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, rescuers pulled 3-year-old Arif Kaan from the rubble of an apartment building. collapsed in Kahramanmaras, a city not far from the epicenter.

With the boy’s lower body trapped under concrete slabs and twisted rebar, emergency crews put a blanket over him to protect him from sub-freezing temperatures as they carefully cut the bones. shards out of him, noting the possibility of another collapse.

The boy’s father, Ertugrul Kisi, who had been rescued earlier, sobbed as his son was pulled out and taken to an ambulance.

“Currently, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kaan,” a Turkish TV reporter announced as the dramatic rescue was televised back home.

Hours later, rescuers pulled 10-year-old Betul Edis from the rubble of her house in the city of Adiyaman. Amid applause from onlookers, her grandfather kissed her and spoke softly to her as she was loaded into the ambulance.

But such stories come just over two days after Monday’s pre-dawn quake, which struck a large area and tore down thousands of buildings, with frigid temperatures and high winds. Continuous aftershocks complicate rescue efforts.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries joined the more than 24,000 Turkish emergency workers and aid pledges poured in.

But with destruction spreading to many cities and towns – some isolated by the ongoing conflict in Syria – the cries from within the ruins have died down, and despair has grown from who are still waiting for help.

In Syria, the earthquake toppled thousands of buildings and caused more suffering in an area ravaged by the country’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

On Monday afternoon in a town in northwestern Syria, residents found a crying infant with the umbilical cord attached to its deceased mother. The baby was the only member of the family to survive the building collapse in the small town of Jinderis, relatives told the AP news agency.

Turkey is home to millions of refugees from the war. The affected area in Syria is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last remaining opposition-held enclave, where millions live off humanitarian aid.

Up to 23 million people could be affected in the quake-affected area, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergency official for the World Health Organization.

Many survivors in Turkey have had to sleep in cars, outside or in government shelters.

“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a fireplace, we don’t have anything. Our children are in bad shape. Aysan Kurt, 27, told the AP. “We won’t die of hunger or an earthquake, but we will freeze to death from the cold.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected and that he had declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. Authorities say more than 8,000 people have been pulled from the rubble in Turkey and about 380,000 have taken shelter in government shelters or hotels.

In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing fighting and the isolation of the rebel-held area along the border, which is besieged by Russian-backed government forces. Syria itself is a country abandoned internationally under Western sanctions related to the war.

The United Nations said it was “exploring all avenues” to resupply the rebel-held northwest.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktoy said at least 5,894 people have died from the earthquake in Turkey, with another 34,810 injured.

The death toll in government-controlled areas of Syria has risen to 812, with about 1,400 injured, the Health Ministry said. At least 1,020 people have died in the rebel-controlled northwest, according to volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets, with more than 2,300 injured.

The area is located on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. About 18,000 people were killed in similar strong earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey in 1999.


Alsayed reports from Azmarin, Syria. Fraser reports from Ankara, Turkey. David Rising in Bangkok and Robert Badendieck in Istanbul contributed to this story.


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