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Survivors pray for miracles as Turkey steps up quake rescue efforts

Survivors pray for miracles as Turkey steps up quake rescue efforts


ANKARA: Turkiye is praying for a miracle as the search continues for survivors of a massive earthquake that devastated the country’s southern regions.

Heavy rain and snow are hampering efforts to rescue thousands of people trapped under the rubble as the death toll continues to climb.

More than 5,000 people were killed and 15,000 injured in Turkey and neighboring Syria when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a series of aftershocks struck in the early hours of Monday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency in areas affected by the country’s strongest earthquake in 80 years.

The death toll in Turkey stands at 3,500, with more than 22,000 injured and 6,000 buildings destroyed. Over 8,000 survivors were pulled from the ruins of the collapsed buildings.

Authorities warn the death toll will continue to rise.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency. (AFP)

Turkiye announced a week of national mourning and allocated $5.3 billion in emergency aid, while Turkish Airlines flew more than 11,000 volunteers to the quake zone.

Tens of thousands of aid workers and emergency personnel have been sent to the affected area as part of national and international humanitarian assistance, with more than 70 nations offering assistance.

Firat Gerger, a lawyer from the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, drove his wife and children to their country home after surviving the earthquake before returning to the city center to join the effort safety.

I started evacuating guests from the hotel I own in the Haliliye area of ​​Urfa. Then we noticed that the columns of the building next to my hotel were cracking. The building leaned to one side. We quickly surrounded the building with ropes and drove nearby cars away, he told Arab News.

Thousands of buildings collapsed with thousands of people trapped inside. (AFP)

Gerger and his team climbed through a window into a veterinary office on the first floor of the building to rescue the animals trapped inside.

However, their attempts to get a refugee family out of their third-floor apartment ended in tragedy when the building collapsed soon after.

We even threw a rock at their window to get their attention, he said. The ancient building collapsed in seconds under a cloud of dust like in a horror movie, he said.

The refugees were the only people left in the building after calls to evacuate. The bodies of five family members were found following the rescue operation.

Millions of Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country now live in the region.

Local people say many buildings were not built to the standards required to withstand earthquakes and were never properly inspected.

New buildings, even those constructed only a few months ago, collapsed in the earthquake.

Serdar Ozsoy, a photojournalist who reached the port city of Iskenderun yesterday, was in the hard-hit Kirikhan district of Hatay province after the quake.

It is one of the most affected areas. The damage is so extensive that rescue teams cannot be organized effectively. Today, humanitarian aid seems much better than yesterday. I saw so many tents coming up for the survivors. But rain continues to fall and is hampering rescue efforts, he said.

There were hundreds of aftershocks. (AFP)

The first day was critical in finding survivors under the collapsed buildings. But now the chances of saving people are diminishing, apart from miracle cases.

Ozsoy said he spoke to a survivor whose home was ransacked while he was at the cemetery to bury his mother.

The thieves found a golden opportunity to break into his house and steal something valuable, he said.

Rescue teams from Uzbekistan reached Kirikhan district early on Tuesday, while other international rescuers, including EU countries, are working in the area.

The Turkish Red Crescent also provides tents and blankets, as well as mobile kitchens.

In Hatay, thousands of survivors take refuge in their cars, fearing further aftershocks.

There is an urgent need for cash as there is no electricity or an ATM to withdraw cash, Ozsoy said.

Because many survivors were left homeless in the freezing temperatures. (AFP)

In other towns, such as southeast Gaziantep, stocks of essential items are running low.

Ugur Poyraz, general secretary of the IYI party, said there was no bread because the city’s natural gas supply had been hit by the quake.

Some local people are trying to distribute soup to survivors with their own facilities, he said.

In Hatay, Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu, who made 107 appearances for Newcastle in the English Premier League and currently plays for Turkish club Hatayspor, was rescued from a collapsed building.

Damaged roads, a fire that broke out in the port of Iskenderun and a blocked airport runway have made access to Hatay province more difficult.

Duygu Duman told Arab News his relatives could hear voices from under the rubble of a collapsed building in central Hatay, where his grandmother and aunt were trapped.

My grandmother is very old, she can’t wait that long. It’s a race against time, Duman said.

Another survivor, Ismail Keser, rescued his sister-in-law from the ruins of a five-storey building in Antakya.

We cannot enter the house because of the aftershocks, he said. I’m still involved in the rescue efforts, but we’re losing hope. There is chaos here, he told Arab News.




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