Turkey-Syria earthquake: Death toll rises to nearly 5,000 as rescue operations continue amid severe cold



The death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has risen to 4,832. On the side of Turkey, at least 3,381 people have died, while about 1,451 people have lost their lives in Syria. Unfortunately, the end to the rising death toll might continue for some days. 

The head of Turkey’s disaster service, Yunus Sezer, confirmed the death toll on the Turkish side on Tuesday morning, adding that at least 15,800 people sustained different degrees of injuries. 

Syrian State News Agency, SANA, reported the death toll in government-controlled areas, saying about 711 people have died. The part of Syria that shares a boundary with Turkey is the most hit by the quake, and experts are scared that the White Helmet, a rebel group that controls that area would not be able to handle the situation. Not less than 3,500 people are injured in Syria, with many still stuck under the rubble. 

More rescuers are arriving

In a world so divided, countries have united behind Turkey and Syria as they try to do whatever they can to curb the sudden humanitarian crises. One after another, nations are sending humanitarian aid or rescue teams to either Syria or Turkey as there is so much to do in both countries, with very few hands to do them. 

The US Ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, said the US would send two rescue units to help in Turkey. 

“There will be two teams from the US. One from Fairfax County and another from Los Angeles — what they call these heavy units, each with I think 70 personnel with search dogs as well as paramedics,” Jeff Flake stated. “That’s what we are told is needed.”

On Monday, the spokesperson of the US States Department, Ned Price, said the US had already delivered some aid to Turkey and more of such would be on the way to assist victims in both Turkey and Syria. 

The Pakistani government also sent rescue teams and relief materials to Turkey. The Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that the plane carrying the search and rescue team was already on its way to Turkey. Apart from the 50-member rescue team, the Pakistani government also sent 25 tonnes of relief materials. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Shebhaz Sharif said mere solidarity would be incomplete without tangible and timely material support. 

“24 hours after the devastating earthquake hit Turkiye & Syria, scenes of death & destruction are mind-numbing. It breaks the heart to witness sheer scale of unfolding human tragedy,” Sharif wrote. “Solidarity should translate into tangible & timely material support for suffering humanity.”

Several other countries have sent rescue teams and aid to either Syria or Turkey, but it appears that so much work needs to be done. 

Stuck in the rubble, but no one to help

Unfortunately, there are still thousands stuck in the rubble, but there are very few hands to help rescue them. Painfully, some of the affected areas have not been reached by the rescue teams as there are limited people to cover the thousands of collapsed buildings.

The Hatay province of Turkey was one of the most hit by the earthquake. However, residents say there is very little or no help after 24 hours of the disaster. 

“They’re making noises but nobody is coming,” Deniz, a resident of the Hatay province, told Reuters. “We’re devastated, we’re devastated. My God … They’re calling out. They’re saying, ‘Save us,’ but we can’t save them. How are we going to save them? There has been nobody since the morning.”

Ragip Soylu, a journalist, also called on the Turkish government to come to the rescue of trapped victims in the Hatay region. 

“Thousands of people are calling specific help for Hatay where Turkish rescue workers couldn’t reach nearly for 24 hours,” Soylu wrote. “It is awful. Too many messages of people in the rubble. People who speak from the city only cry. That’s the only thing they could do.”

He added that the city’s airport and roads leading to the region were damaged following the quake. 

“There is already huge anger towards the government for the absence of emergency response teams in Hatay,” he added. 

Across the country, thousands are trapped inside the rubble as there are predictions that the death toll could rise to ten thousand. Thankfully, some victims are still being pulled out alive as of Tuesday morning, but time seems to be running out. 

Time is running out quickly

While several victims are still alive inside the rubble, they would not continue to breathe forever. That was the message sent by Raed al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmet, which controls parts of Syria.

“Every second means saving lives and we call on all humanitarian organisations to give material aid and respond to this catastrophe urgently,” Raed al-Saleh told Reuters.

Thousands of buildings collapsed following the earthquake and the aftershocks. Several hundreds of families are still trapped inside the collapsed buildings, as the quake happened in the early hours.

In Turkey, every agency of the state is involved in the rescue effort. The police, municipal workers, Disaster and Emergency Management Agency and parts of the Interior Ministry are all involved. The Health Minister said at least 2,256 emergency health workers have reached affected areas and 602 ambulances have been deployed across the country.

Thousands of foreigners are already in the country to help, and several others within Turkey and Syria have volunteered to assist the victims. However, despite the best efforts, the cold weather seems to be another stumbling block on the way.

The cold is not helping matters

The severe cold in Turkey and Syria has become an obstacle to rescue teams. Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said helicopters could not take off due to weather conditions.

“The weather conditions and the scale of the disaster make it hard for our teams to reach the region. Our helicopters could not take off today due to weather conditions,” Koca stated at a news conference.

Snowstorms have hit parts of Syria and Turkey within the past weeks, with temperatures going below zero degrees. Most survivors are taking shelter in cars, stadiums, and other safe places due to the severe weather conditions.

The damaged infrastructures are also hindering the progress of rescue operations. Over 5,000 buildings collapsed in the quake. Rescuers say it is difficult to get underneath these buildings, as most of them were mighty structures before they collapsed.

There are predictions that the death toll could reach 10,000, and others have not ruled out the possibility that it could go higher.


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