Survivors are proving their resilience in Turkey. Rescuers pulled out several people alive from collapsed buildings on Monday and were digging to reach a grandmother, mother, and daughter from a single family, a week after the country’s worst earthquake in modern history.
With hopes of finding many more survivors in the rubble fast fading, the combined official death toll in Turkey and neighboring Syria from last Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake and aftershocks rose to nearly 36,000 and looked set to keep increasing.
The rescue phase is “coming to a close,” with urgency now switching to providing shelter, food, schooling, and psychosocial care, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said during a visit to Aleppo in northern Syria on Monday.
Much of that post-earthquake victim assistance is coming from Christian aid agencies who are on the ground alongside official governmental agencies.
Some 176 hours after the first earthquake, a woman named Serap Donmez on Monday was pulled out alive from a collapsed apartment block in Antakya by search and rescue teams from Turkey and Oman, state broadcaster TRT reported.
Another woman was rescued in southern Gaziantep Province a few hours earlier CNN Turk reported. A 35-year-old was rescued from the rubble of a building in Adiyaman city, officials said.
Rescuers in Kahramanmaras said they had contact with a grandmother, mother, and baby trapped in one room in a three-storey building, with a fourth person possibly in another room. They said they were trying to break a wall to reach the survivors but a column was delaying them.
Members of a Spanish rescue team, Turkish army, and police search crews were working at the building, which remained largely intact.
“We don’t know whether they are alive. We just saw heat with the thermal cameras, but they haven’t made any sound,” a soldier with the Turkish army told Reuters.
The deadliest quake in Turkey since 1939 has killed 31,643 people there, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said. More than 4,300 people were reported dead and 7,600 injured in northwest Syria as of Sunday, said a U.N. agency.
The quake is now the sixth most deadly natural disaster this century, behind the 2005 tremor that killed at least 73,000 in Pakistan.
In Syria, the disaster hit hardest in the rebel-held northwest, leaving homeless yet again many people who had already been displaced several times by a decade-old civil war. The region has received little aid compared with government-held areas.
“What is the most striking here, is even in Aleppo, which has suffered so much these many years, this moment, that moment … was about the worst that these people have experienced,” the UN’s Griffiths said.
The people of the region have been “failed,” he said in an earlier Twitter post.
There is currently only a single crossing open on the Turkey-Syria border for U.N. aid supplies. Griffiths said that the UN would have aid moving from government-held regions in Syria to the rebel-held northwest.
The United States called on the Syrian government and all other parties to immediately grant humanitarian access to all those in need.
Earthquake aid from government-held regions into territory controlled by hardline opposition groups has been held up by approval issues with terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) which controls much of the region, a U.N. spokesperson said.
The United Nations has said it is hoping to open an additional two border points.
Turkey said on Sunday about 80,000 people were in the hospital, and more than 1 million in temporary shelters.
–Reuters and wire services