Death toll from earthquakes exceeds 46,000 in Syria and Turkey

A woman waits while search teams dig through the rubble of a collapsed building in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, February 18, 2023. (Photo: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

Twelve days after a terrible earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, officials report that more than 46,000 people have died. More than 84,000 buildings have been seriously damaged, require immediate destruction, or have fallen.

Concerns are mounting for the victims of the catastrophe in Syria as the World Food Programme (WFP) urges authorities in the region's northwest to stop barring access to assist hundreds of thousands of earthquake-ravaged people.

The death toll in Turkey has reached 40,642 as a result of the earthquake, while neighbouring Syria has reported more than 5,800 deaths, a number that has remained stable for several days.

Rescue attempts continue

Saturday, workers from Kyrgyzstan attempted to rescue a Syrian family of five from the wreckage of a building in the southern Turkish city of Antakya. Three people, including a kid, were saved from certain death. The mother and father survived, but the infant succumbed to dehydration, according to the rescue crew. One older sister and one twin perished.

Meanwhile, an infant born following the earthquake in northern Syria has been reunited with her aunt and uncle after her parents and siblings perished in the disaster.

After the earthquake, social media footage showed a rescuer crawling down a hill of wreckage while carrying a little, dust-covered infant.

The newborn was later recognized as the child of Abdallah and Afraa Mleihan, who perished in the earthquake together with their other children in rebel-held Jandaris, Aleppo province, Syria.

On Saturday, her paternal aunt Hala and uncle-by-marriage Khalil Al-Sawadi finally collected their niece, whom they named Afraa after her mother, who had passed away.

WFP operations hampered in northwestern Syria

The chief of the World Food Programme (WFP) has urged authorities in northern Syria to cease obstructing access to the region to assist hundreds of thousands of earthquake-ravaged people.

Director of the WFP, David Beasley, stated that the organization was running low on supplies and demanded that more border crossings from Turkey be authorized.

Beasley, speaking on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, explained, "The cross-line operations into northwest Syria are problematic because the northwest Syrian authorities are denying us access."

Most casualties in Syria's almost decade-long civil conflict have occurred in the northwest.

The fact that groups control the region at war with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad has hindered efforts to deliver help to the local population.

Public health issues

In locations where tens of thousands of buildings fell last week, and sanitation infrastructure was devastated, physicians and specialists have expressed alarm about the spread of infection.

Although there has been an increase in intestinal and upper respiratory infections, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca stated on Saturday that the statistics do not constitute a severe threat to public health.

At a news conference in the southern province of Hatay, Koca stated, "Our current priority is to combat conditions that threaten public health and prevent infectious diseases."

Humanitarian organizations report that the survivors will require assistance for months due to the widespread destruction of vital infrastructure.

Anger grows

Neither Turkey nor Syria has reported the number of individuals still missing after the earthquake.

For families still awaiting the return of loved ones from Turkey, fury is increasing over what they see as unethical building methods and severely faulty urban development that led to the destruction of thousands of homes and businesses.

Hundreds were killed when Antakya's Ronesans Rezidans (Renaissance Residence) building collapsed.

"It was supposed to be earthquake-resistant, but you can see the results," said Hamza Alpaslan, 47, whose brother formerly resided in the building. "It is in terrible shape. It contains neither cement nor actual iron. It is a real hell."

Turkey has pledged to investigate anyone suspected of being responsible for the building collapse and ordered the imprisonment of over one hundred people, including developers.

Publish : 2023-02-19 09:49:00

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