Rescuers in Turkey pulled several people alive from collapsed buildings on Monday, a week after the country’s worst earthquake in modern history, but hopes of many more survivors were fading and criticism of the authorities grew.
In hard-hit Kahramanmaras, rescuers were attempting to reach a grandmother, mother and daughter, all from one family, who appeared to have survived the 7.8-magnitude Feb. 6 quake and aftershock which killed more than 37,000 in Turkey and Syria.
But others were bracing for the inevitable scaling down of operations as low temperatures reduced the already slim chances of survival, with some Polish rescuers announcing they would leave on Wednesday.
In the shattered Syrian city of Aleppo, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said the rescue phase was “coming to a close”, with the focus switching to shelter, food and schooling. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to allow more UN aid to access the war-torn country from Turkey, diplomats said late Monday.
There were still glimmers of hope. A 13-year-old was pulled out alive after spending 182 hours under the rubble of a collapsed building in Turkey’s southern Hatay province on Monday, his head braced, and covered for warmth, before he was moved into an ambulance.
A young girl named Miray was recovered alive in the southeastern Turkish city of Adiyaman, officials said, while state broadcaster TRT Haber said a 10-year-old girl was rescued in Kahramanmaras.
At least two other children and three adults were also reported to have been rescued.
In the city of Kahramanmaras, rescuers said they had contact with a grandmother, mother and baby trapped in a room in the remains of a three-storey building. Rescuers were digging a second tunnel to reach them, after a first route was blocked, and a human chain was formed to carry out the rubble in buckets.
“I have a very strong feeling we are going to get them,” said Burcu Baldauf, head of the Turkish voluntary health care team. “It’s already a miracle. After seven days, they are there with no water, no food and in good condition.”
On the same street, emergency workers covered a body in a black bag. “This is your brother,” one grieving woman said, with another wailing, “no, no.”
The Turkish toll now exceeds the 31,643 killed in a quake in 1939, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said, making it the worst quake in Turkey’s modern history.
The total death toll in Syria, a nation ravaged by more than a decade of civil war, has reached 5,714, including those who died in both the rebel enclave and government-held areas.
It is the sixth most deadly natural disaster this century, behind the 2005 tremour that killed at least 73,000 in Pakistan.
Turkey faces a bill of as much as US$84-billion, a business group said. Turkey’s Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said some 42,000 buildings had either collapsed, were in urgent need of demolition, or severely damaged across ten cities.
Dozens of residents and overwhelmed first responders who spoke to Reuters expressed bewilderment at a lack of water, food, medicine, body bags and cranes in the disaster zone, with many criticizing an overly slow and centralized response by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
“God knows what will happen next,” said Ismail Yuvarlak, 42. He said he was living in a tent after his house in Kahramanmaras had been condemned by authorities who in his words had left his family to figure things out on their own.
Said Qudsi travelled to Kahramanmaras from Istanbul and buried his uncle, aunt and their two sons, while their two daughters were still missing.
“People are not dead because of the earthquake, they are dead because of precautions that weren’t taken earlier,” he said.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who faces an election scheduled for June that is expected to be the toughest of his two decades in power, acknowledged problems in the initial response but said the situation was now under control.
How you can help
Canadians who wish to support victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria must ensure any organization they are giving to is credible and has a solid track record in the work it advertises. Resources such as Charity Intelligence Canada can help with this. You can also check the Canada Revenue Agency to see whether its registration is up to date. Be aware that relief groups based abroad may not be able to issue you tax receipts for donations.
- White Helmets: Since 2018, this volunteer rescue group has helped Syrians through search-and-rescue operations, evacuations and medical care. www.whitehelmets.org
- Union of Medical Relief and Care Organizations: A French-based coalition of humanitarian groups that supports Syrian victims of war. www.uossm.org/donate_now
- Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders): This non-governmental organization had been in Syria before the quake and has mobilized more resources there. www.doctorswithoutborders.ca
- Islamic Relief Canada: A charity providing basic services to vulnerable people in disaster areas. www.islamicreliefcanada.org/emergencies/turkey-syria-earthquake-appeal/
- Molham: A non-profit relief group founded by Syrian university students in 2012. www.molhamteam.com/en/campaigns/439
- Oxfam Canada: This global anti-poverty organization is raising funds for humanitarian efforts in Turkey and Syria. www.oxfam.ca
- Save the Children: The Canadian branch of this international NGO is accepting donations for children and families in the disaster area. www.savethechildren.ca
- UNHCR: The United Nations refugee agency supports those fleeing the Syrian conflict with emergency supplies and medicine. www.unhcr.ca
- World Vision: The Christian relief and development organization immediately provided heat and fuel to affected areas in northwest Syria, and is raising funds to provide food, water and shelter. https://donate.worldvision.ca/products/turkiye-and-syria-crisis-response