The death toll surpassed 5,000 people across Syria and Turkey on Tuesday as the frantic search for survivors from two powerful earthquakes and series of violent aftershocks continued for a second day.
The temblors toppled more than 6,000 buildings. In Turkey alone more than 24,000 rescue workers, some from around the world, were picking through mammoth heaps of debris seeking signs of life.
“We are facing one of the biggest disasters not only of the history of the Turkish Republic but also of … the world,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
Amid the overwhelming tragedy, small victories were being won. In Kahramanmaras, rescuers pull concrete slabs away from Onur Dobuoglu, 25, who had been trapped for 30 hours. Dobuoglu was taken by ambulance to the hospital with a fractured foot and arms.
Rescue team member Turgut Dolanbay told the Turkish Anadolu News Agency the team focused on the site after hearing Dobuoglu calling out. His uncle, Sefa Gedik, hugged rescuers after reuniting with his nephew.
“May Allah help everyone, and we wish everyone to be saved,” Gedik said.
QUAKE DAMAGE:Photos capture devastating aftermath of powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake
HOW YOU CAN HELP: These groups are taking donations
►Christian Atsu, a former striker with Chelsea and Newcastle in the British Premier League, was successfully rescued from the rubble of the collapsed building and is receiving treatment,” the Ghana Football Association tweeted. Atsu, 31, signed with a Turkish team last year.
►Turkish Airlines said it shuttled 80 flights with almost 12,000 volunteers into the earthquake zone in southern Turkey on Tuesday. CEO Bilal Eksi said the flights would continue as long as necessary.
Children among the most vulnerable
UNICEF, the United Nations Chldren’s Fund, said its immediate focus is on ensuring children and families have access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, reuniting kids with families, “psychological first aid” and getting schools, now many being used for temporary housing, reopened for education. Displaced families in northwest Syria, and Syrian refugee families living in Turkey in informal settlements are among the most vulnerable, UNICEF spokesman James Elder said.
“Communities are grappling with an ongoing cholera outbreak and heavy rain and snow,” Elder said. “In this context, and one of more than a decade of conflict, this earthquake is utterly unbearable.”
Wintry weather impedes search for the living
Attempts to reach survivors were impeded by temperatures below freezing and close to 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.
Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press she could hear her mother’s voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, but that efforts to get into the ruins had been futile without any rescue crews and heavy equipment to help.
“If only we could lift the concrete slab we’d be able to reach her,” Atay said. “My mother is 70-years-old; she won’t be able to withstand this for long.”
The massive relief operation often struggled to reach devastated towns, and voices that had been crying out from the rubble fell silent.
“We could hear their voices, they were calling for help,” said Ali Silo, whose two relatives could not be saved in the Turkish town of Nurdag.
PREVIOUSLY:Frantic search for survivors after massive earthquake rocks Turkey, Syria; Over 5,000 dead
Thousands are left homeless
In Turkey’s Hatay province, thousands of people sheltered in sports centers or fair halls, while others spent the night outside, huddled in blankets around fires. In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 20 miles from the epicenter, people took refuge in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centers.
On the Syrian side, the affected area is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Strained medical centers overflowed with the wounded, rescue workers said. Some buildings remained standing but were no longer structurally sound and had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the Syrian American Medical Society.
“We’ve been receiving victims of the quake as they come in, all while simultaneously working to guarantee the well-being of our over 1,700 staff members in Syria, and the 90 at the epicenter near Gaziantep,” SAMS President, Dr. Amjad Rass said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Story Credit: usatoday.com