Turkey and Syria earthquake updates: Death toll passes 7,900 as difficult conditions frustrate rescue efforts

, Turkey and Syria earthquake updates: Death toll passes 7,900 as difficult conditions frustrate rescue efforts


The latest death toll from Monday’s catastrophic earthquake has passed 7,800.

In Turkey, 5,894 people are confirmed to have been killed, while 1,932 people have died in Syria for a combined total of 7,826 fatalities. There are fears that the toll will rise inexorably, with World Health Organization officials estimating up to 20,000 may have died.

A woman named Nurgul Atay told the Associated Press she could hear her mother’s voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province. But rescuers did not have the heavy equipment needed to rescue her.

“If only we could lift the concrete slab, we’d be able to reach her,” she said. “My mother is 70 years old, she won’t be able to withstand this for long.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 1,647 people were killed in Hatay alone, the highest toll of any Turkish province. At least 1,846 people had been rescued there as of Tuesday evening, he said. Hatay’s airport was closed after the quake destroyed the runway, complicating rescue efforts.

“People revolted (on Tuesday) morning. The police had to intervene,” a man named Celal Deniz, 61, told AFP in Gaziantep. His brother and nephews remain trapped under rubble.

“Where have all our taxes gone, collected since 1999?”

He was referring to a levy dubbed “the earthquake tax” that was implemented after a massive earthquake destroyed large parts of northwestern Turkey and killed 17,400 people,

The revenues – now estimated to be worth 88bn liras, or $4.6bn – were meant to have been spent on disaster prevention and the development of emergency services.

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But how this money was actually spent is not publicly known.

If there aren’t enough rescuers, volunteers say they will have to step in and do the hard work themselves.

Syria death toll passes 2,000

Syria’s White Helmets say that the death toll in rebel-held northwest Syria now stands at 1,220, from 1,000 a few hours ago.

With the 812 people confirmed dead in government-held areas, this brings the total known toll in Syria to 2032.

At least 5,894 have died in Turkey, bringing the overall lives lost in both countries so far to 7,926.

The numbers are expected to increase “significantly”, the White Helmets said.

On Wednesday, Dave O’Neill, leader of a British emergency service rescue team, told AFP that the coming hours will be “absolutely critical” in the scramble through the quake debris.

“That is why we are so keen to get to work as fast as we can to make the most of the rescue window in front of us,” he said shortly after the 77-person British squad arrived at Gaziantep airport.

The team just wanted to “get out as quickly as possible,” he said.

“We have search teams and dogs. We need to get out there and establish our base and link up with the other teams.”

AFP has this report from Gaziantep’s airport, which has turned into a place for people to sleep amid a flurry of arrivals of rescuers from Turkey and around the world.

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Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has warned the next 48 hours would be “crucial” in the hunt for survivors, with temperatures barely above freezing.

With survivors scared to return to their homes after the devastating 7.8 magnitude tremor, the airport has become a refuge for many.

About 100 people wrapped in blankets slept in one lounge of the terminal normally used to welcome Turkish politicians and celebrities.

Local authorities have banned people from staying in apartment blocks because of the many aftershocks hitting the region.

Mustafa Ehianci, a 20-year-old student, was among those huddled in the airport’s VIP lounge, with five other members of his family.

He said he had been asleep when the first tremor hit on Monday.

“It was like a bad dream, a roller coaster,” he recalled.

“We were waiting outside when the second quake struck a few hours later. Now we are all terrified,” Ehianci told AFP.

“We are sleeping here, eating here. We are safe in this area, there is electricity and sewage.

“I don’t know when we will leave.”

@ theguardian/AFP

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