Turkey: Rescuers Dig Through Night To Find Survivors of Earthquake

Rescuers are digging using their bare hands as they work through the night to find survivors of earthquakes in Turkey which have killed at least 4,100 people.

Thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria were flattened on Monday after a series of tremors, including two measuring 7.8 and 7.5 in magnitude.

There are fears that there will be thousands more fatalities confirmed in the coming days, as emergency services battle to save people trapped under the rubble as temperatures plunge below freezing.

Many of those unaccounted for nearly 24 hours later had been sleeping in their beds when the first quake struck in the early hours of Monday morning, with the shaking causing entire apartment blocks to buckle and collapse.

Videos coming from the region show desperate rescuers using any tools available, including their bare hands, to try and free people – but some came too late, with heartbreaking footage showing the bodies of children and families pulled from the wreckage.

Thousands of people in Turkey and Syria are known to have been killed following the two catastrophic earthquakes and the dozens of aftershocks that have followed.

As of late on Monday night Turkish officials confirmed that 2,379 people were known to have died, while Syrian rescuers said 1,444 had been killed in government and opposition-controlled territory.

Multi-storey apartment buildings full of residents were among the 5,606 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.

The head of Syria’s National Earthquake Centre, Raed Ahmed, called it ‘the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre’. The initial quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue work on Monday.

In the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa, rescuers were working into the night to try and pull survivors from the wreckage of a seven-storey building that had collapsed.

Despite temperatures falling below zero, frightened residents in the city were preparing to spend the night on the streets, huddling around fires for warmth.

The United States Geological Survey, which has recorded more than 60 earthquakes and aftershocks in the region in the last 24 hours, warned that fatalities from the quakes could reach as high as 10,000. Countries from across the world have offered aid, with rescue workers from Europe, Asia and the Americas all flying in to help the efforts of the emergency services.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared seven days of national mourning, while buildings in Israel and Bosnia have been lit up in memory of those who have died. The initial 7.8-magnitude night-time tremor, followed hours later by a slightly smaller one, wiped out entire sections of major Turkish cities in a region filled with millions of people who have fled the civil war in Syria and other conflicts. The later 7.5-magnitude quake struck at 1.24pm (1024 GMT) two-and-a-half miles southeast of the town of Ekinozu and around 60 miles north of the first quake that has wrought devastation across Turkey and Syria.

As Monday rolled on, concerns grew for people trapped under the rubble as thousands of rescue workers across a 200-mile radius jumped into action, searching through tangles of metal and giant piles of concrete for survivors who could be heard calling out from underneath the wreckage.

Monday’s first quake was centred north of Gaziantep, Turkey, which is about 60 miles from the Syrian border, has a population of bout 2 million, and is home to large numbers of Syrian refugees. It struck at 04:17 am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 11 miles, the US Geological Survey said. A strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later, causing more havoc. Turkey’s own agency said 40 aftershocks were felt.

Buildings were reported to have collapsed as far south as Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir – more than 200 miles northeast.

Tremors from the quake – which lasted about a minute and could be Turkey’s largest ever – were felt as far away as Greenland, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said. People also reported feeling tremors in Egypt, Lebanon and also Cyprus, while a tsunami warning was briefly issued by authorities in Italy.

Orhan Tatar, an official from the Turkish disaster agency, told reporters that the two quakes were independent of each other. After a 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck Buffalo, New York in the United States, meteorologist Tyler Metcalf suggested on Twitter that the Turkey earthquake could have ‘destabilised faults across the world.’

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency said there had been 1,541 fatalities as a result of the quake, with a further 7,600 injured, across ten Turkish provinces. The president earlier described it as the country’s largest disaster since 1939. Meanwhile, at least 928 people were killed in Syria, according to figures from the Damascus government and rescue workers in the northwestern region controlled by insurgents.

The volunteer civil defence organisation said the quake has ‘resulted in hundreds of injuries, dozens of deaths, and people being stranded in the winter cold’.

Assessing the scale of the disaster, the USGS said there was a 47 percent chance that the death toll could reach between 1,000 and 10,000 people, and a 20 percent chance of it reaching between 10,000 and 100,000 fatalities.

At least 2,800 rescue teams have been deployed across Turkey, and the Turkish armed forces have set up an air corridor to enable search and rescue teams to reach the affected zones, the country’s defence ministry said on Monday.

Images on Turkish television showed rescuers digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep, where entire sections of cities were destroyed. Pazarcik, which lies between the two cities, was described by one resident to The Guardian as being ‘in ruins’.

Several clips were posted to social media from the scenes of rescue operations. In one clip, at least five people – including two children – were filmed as they were helped through narrow gap amongst the wreckage of a building, and through a ‘tunnel’ that remained clear enough for people to escape through to the outside.

Images from Diyarbakir showed hundreds of rescue workers and civilians forming lines across huge piles of wreckage, passing down pieces of concrete and household items as they worked to clear the debris in the search for survivors.

People trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic jams, hampering efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. Authorities urged residents not to take to the roads. The quake piled more misery on a region that has seen tremendous suffering over the past decade.

On the Syrian side, the area affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.


The Mail

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