345,000 apartments destroyed in Turkiye quake; death toll over 46,000

Published February 19, 2023
People walk through rubble, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 18, 2023. — Reuters
People walk through rubble, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 18, 2023. — Reuters

ANTAKYA: More than 46,000 people have been killed in the earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria and the toll is expected to soar, with some 345,000 apartments in Turkiye now known to have been destroyed, and many still missing.

As Turkiye attempts to manage its worst modern disaster, concerns were growing over the victims of the tragedy in Syria, with the World Food Programme (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 Turkiye.

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, said. 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.”

The head of Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), Yunus Sezer, said the search and rescue efforts will largely be terminated on Sunday night.Speaking to this news agency 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 Turkiye.

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.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said: “Our priority now is to fight against the conditions that can threaten public health and to prevent infectious diseases,” Koca told a news conference in southern Hatay province. Aid organisations say the survivors will need help for months to come with so much crucial infrastructure destroyed.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2023

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