Turkey-Syria earthquake: A few “miracle survivors” as death toll surpasses 21,000


Feb 10, 2023

At least 21,719 people have died in Turkey and Syria following the deadly earthquake that struck both countries on Monday. The Turkish government said 18,342 people have died on its side, while the death toll in Syria stands at 3,377 at the time of the report. 

After about 100 hours, rescuers have not given up hope of finding survivors, but hope is declining sharply, and experts are worried that the toll could increase tremendously. 

All hope is not lost, as people could be alive beneath the rubble

Days after the earthquake, rescuers are still finding survivors in Turkey and Syria. The latest is Albert Sachma, who was rescued on Friday morning after spending 96 hours under the rubble. 26-year-old Albert has been under the rubble in the Kahramanmaras region of Turkey since Monday when the earthquake struck. He was taken to the hospital after he was rescued. 

Sachman was not the only one rescued on the 96th hour. A one-and-a-half-year-old girl and her family were also pulled out alive in the Hatay region on Friday morning. The girl, Sela Elbarazi, her father, mother, brother and uncle were trapped for 96 hours before the rescue team got them out, Turkish news agency Anadolu reported. They are currently receiving treatment at a government hospital.

The Antalya Metropolitan Fire Department in a statement on Thursday said it rescued a 10-year-old girl in the 90th hour since the earthquake happened. The girl, Hilal Saglam, was rescued after she made a sound that got the attention of the rescue team. To save the little girl, the team spent at least seven hours clearing the path until she was rescued alive. 

“The injured girl, who was taken to the stretcher with great joy and applause, was sent to the hospital for treatment by ambulance,” the fire department said, adding that the first thing she requested was milk. 

Just before that, volunteers found three girls between the ages of 5 and 10 alive under the rubble in the same Kahramanmaras region. One of the girls was rescued after spending 89 hours under the rubble while the other two are communicating with the rescue team as rescue operations continue. 

On Thursday, several people were rescued alive from the rubble. In the city of Adiyaman, 17-year-old Gulsum Yesilkaya was brought out alive after several hours of work by the team of rescuers. 

23-year-old Yigit Akar was also rescued on Thursday in the Gaziantep’s Islahiye district of Turkey. Turkish state news agency, Anadolu, reported. 

Most of these successful rescues are regarded by many as miracles and have given a glimpse of hope that more survivors could be under the collapsed structures. But that does not change the fact that time is running out to find the few still breathing under the rubble.

Sanctions against Syria temporarily suspended

Sanctions against Syria had initially affected aid supply to the country, which is hit by the worse earthquake in decades. However, the United States on Thursday announced that it was lifting the sanctions for six months so the Syrian people could get a measure of support. 

Deputy Treasury Secretary of the US Treasury Department, Wally Adeyemo, stated this on Thursday. 

“U.S. sanctions in Syria will not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people. While U.S. sanctions programs already contain robust exemptions for humanitarian efforts, today Treasury is issuing a blanket General License to authorize earthquake relief efforts so that those providing assistance can focus on what’s needed most: saving lives and rebuilding,” Adeyemo stated. 

Although Turkey is the most hit by the earthquake, rescue operations in Northwest Syria seem difficult. It is controlled by rebels, and without the assistance of the central government, they do not have the required equipment to tackle the situation. Turkey on the other hand has received more support from the international community than Syria because of the sanctions. However, the lifting of the sanctions could play a significant role in improving the situation in Syria. 

Ukraine and Russia helping out despite the war

The warring Ukraine and Russia have sent rescue teams to Turkey. Following the earthquake, leaders of both nations promised to help out.

Ukrainian rescuers are helping with the aftermath of the terrible earthquake in Turkey. Our thoughts are with the victims of the terrible disaster, their families and loved ones [in Turkey and Syria],” Olena Haluska, co-founder of the international centre for Ukrainian victory, wrote.

Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, the spokesman for the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, said a war in the country would not prevent its people from helping out. He, however, insisted they would work far away from their Russian counterpart.

“We will work and distance ourselves from Russian rescuers as far as we can,” Khorunzhyi said. “The coordination centre has informed us that Russian emergency crews are located in a far-off place, and we won’t be able to meet.”

Most countries across Europe and other parts of the world have also sent volunteers to help out in what is one of the worse earthquakes in human history. On Thursday, the World Bank announced the donation of $1.78bn in aid to Turkey.

“We are providing immediate assistance and preparing a rapid assessment of the urgent and massive needs on the ground,” World Bank President David Malpass said.


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