ANTAKYA/KAHRAMANMARAS: More than 46,000 people were killed in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, and the death toll is expected to rise further, with 345,000 apartments in Turkey now known to have been destroyed and many still missing.
Concerns about the victims of the tragedy in Syria grew as Turkiye attempted to manage its worst modern disaster, with the World Food Programme (WFP) pressuring authorities in the northwest to stop blocking access to the area as it seeks to help hundreds of thousands of people ravaged by earthquakes.
Twelve days after the earthquake, workers from Kyrgyzstan attempted to rescue a Syrian family of five from the rubble of a building in Antakya, Turkey’s southernmost city.
Three people were rescued alive, including a child. The mother and father survived, but the child died later from dehydration, according to the rescue team. One older sister and a twin both died.
“We heard shouts an hour ago when we were digging. “We are always happy when we find people who are alive,” Atay Osmanov, a member of the rescue team, told Reuters.
Ten ambulances waited on a nearby street that had been closed to traffic to allow the rescue work to take place.
Workers requested complete silence and that everyone crouch or sit as the teams climbed to the top of the rubble of the building where the family was discovered to listen for any additional sounds using an electronic detector.
“Take a deep breath if you can hear my voice,” one worker yelled into the rubble as rescue efforts continued.
Yunus Sezer, the head of Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), stated that search and rescue operations will be largely suspended on Sunday night.
The death toll in Turkiye is 40,642 while neighboring Syria has reported more than 5,800 deaths, a figure that has not changed in days.
WFP Director David Beasley told Reuters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that the Syrian and Turkish governments were cooperating well, but that its operations were being hampered in northwestern Syria.
Last week, the agency announced that it was running out of supplies there and called for more border crossings from Turkey to be opened.
“The issues we’re having are with cross-border operations into northwest Syria, where the authorities there aren’t giving us the access we need,” Beasley explained.
“That is squeezing our operations. That needs to be addressed right away.”
“Time is running out, and money is running out. Our operation costs about $50 million per month just for earthquake response, so unless Europe wants a new wave of refugees, we must get the help we require,” Beasley added.
In Syria, which has already been devastated by more than a decade of civil war, the majority of fatalities have occurred in the northwest.
The area is controlled by insurgents who are at odds with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, complicating efforts to deliver aid to the people.
Thousands of Syrians who sought refuge in Turkey during the civil war have returned to their homes in the conflict zone, at least for the time being.