DAMASCUS/ ISTANBUL: More than 46,000 people have been killed in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria and the toll is expected to soar, with some 264,000 apartments in Turkey destroyed and many still missing as rescuers listen for signs of life under the rubble.
As Turkey tries to manage its worst modern disaster, concerns were growing over the victims of the tragedy in Syria, with the World Food Program (WFP) pressuring authorities in the northwest to stop blocking access to the area as it seeks to help hundreds of thousands of people ravaged by earthquakes.
Twelve days after the quake hit, workers from Kyrgyzstan tried to save a Syrian family of five from the rubble of a building in Antakya city in southern Turkey.
Three people, including a child, were rescued alive. The mother and father survived but the child died later of dehydration, the rescue team said. One older sister and a twin did not make it.
“We heard shouts when we were digging today an hour ago. When we find people who are alive we are always happy,” Atay Osmanov, a member of the rescue team, told media. Ten ambulances waited on a nearby street that was blocked to traffic to allow the rescue work.
Workers asked for complete silence and for everybody to crouch or sit as the teams climbed further up to the top of the rubble of the building where the family was found to listen for any more sounds using an electronic detector.
As rescue efforts continued one worker yelled into the rubble: “Take a deep breath if you can hear my voice.”
Workers later stopped the search operations as excavators arrived and climbed up the rubble to begin clearing it.
The death toll in Turkey stands at 40,642 from the quake while neighboring Syria has reported more than 5,800 deaths, a toll that has not changed for days.
Speaking to media on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, WFP Director David Beasley said the Syrian and Turkish governments had been cooperating very well, but that its operations were being hampered in northwestern Syria.
The agency last week said it was running out of stocks there and called for more border crossings to be opened from Turkey.
“The problems we are running into (are with) the cross-line operations into northwest Syria where the northwestern Syrian authorities are not giving us the access we need,” said Beasley.
“That is bottlenecking our operations. That has to get fixed straight away.”
“Time is running out and we are running out of money. Our operation is about $50 million a month for our earthquake response alone so unless Europe wants a new wave of refugees, we need to get the support we need,” Beasley added.
In Syria, already shattered by more than a decade of civil war, the bulk of fatalities have been in the northwest.
The area is controlled by insurgents at war with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad which has complicated efforts to get aid to people.
Thousands of Syrians who had sought refuge in Turkey from the civil war have returned to their homes in the war zone at least for now while many international rescue teams have left the vast quake zone in Turkey, domestic teams continued to search through flattened buildings on Saturday hoping to find more survivors who defied the odds. Experts say most rescues occur in the 24 hours following an earthquake. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)