Turkey earthquake live updates: Death toll exceeds 16,000
The search for survivors grew more desperate, the homelessness problem more acute and the death toll rose to more than 16,000 on Thursday as rescuers scramble to find signs of life amid the debris from Monday’s earthquakes and aftershocks that devastated much of Turkey and Syria .
In addition to Turkey’s 12,873 deaths, more than 60,000 were injured, according to the country’s civil protection agency. On the Syrian side of the border, 3,162 were reported dead and more than 5,000 injured.
The total death toll of over 16,000, the world’s highest from an earthquake event in more than a decade, is expected to rise. Experts say the survivability rate for an incident of this magnitude is less than 25% after 72 hours, and the cold temperatures make the chances even smaller.
Dale Buckner, CEO of Global Guardian, based in McLean, Va., said his international security firm has clients in the area, and his team is helping with medical evacuations, transportation and the delivery of food, water and electricity in and around the earthquake area. It will take months to stabilize the region and years to recover from the disaster, he said.
“The magnitude and scale of the destruction witnessed by our team is difficult to describe,” Buckner told USA TODAY. “Some infrastructure will never be replaced. The damage is so widespread that it will be uninhabitable for years to come.”
That assessment stands in stark contrast to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise on Wednesday that homes in the 10 hardest-hit provinces would be rebuilt within a year and that his government “will not leave any of our citizens unattended.”
The elections are scheduled for May 14th.
TRAGEDY IN TURKEY: Photos capture the devastating aftermath of a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake
►Twitter CEO Elon Musk said he had been told by the Turkish government that access to the platform would be restored soon after complaints about it were restricted. Some trapped survivors have used Twitter to communicate with rescuers and loved ones, while others have tweeted complaints about the response.
►A 13-year-old boy was rescued from the rubble on Wednesday, 55 hours after the initial tremor, Turkish rescue workers said. The boy was rescued in Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the tremors, after three hours of intense digging.
►Turkish Airlines said it evacuated 19,050 people from the area on Tuesday and plans to evacuate another 30,000 on Wednesday. Airline official Yahya Ustun urged residents to “wait their turn calmly.”
►More than 40,910 people have been injured in Turkey, according to the National Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.
►Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu blamed Erdogan’s two-decade rule for the devastation. He said he failed to prepare the country for a disaster and accused him of mis-spending funds.
“Like we woke up in hell”:Over 11,000 dead in earthquake-hit Turkey and Syria; Baby rescued after being born under rubble
Snowfall in Syria worsens the disaster
Fresh snowfall in Syria on Wednesday has exacerbated the disaster in the region, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official in the country said.
“We already have a very vulnerable situation; People (are) already vulnerable, unable to take care of themselves… and suddenly this comes,” said El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN resident coordinator for Syria.
Benlamlih said in a video briefing on Wednesday that 10.9 million people in Syria in five northwestern governorates were affected by the earthquake.
About 100,000 people in Aleppo are homeless, Benlamlih added. But he stressed that while 30,000 people have taken refuge in schools and mosques, the remaining 70,000 “have snow, they have cold and they live in a terrible situation”.
Erdogan defends disaster relief
Most of Turkey lies above major fault lines and the country is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Nearly 18,000 people died in similarly powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey in 1999.
Erdogan on Wednesday inspected relief efforts in Kahramanmaras province, where Monday’s two strong tremors and aftershocks were concentrated. The damage was spread across at least nine other provinces, affecting more than 13 million of the country’s 86 million people.
Erdogan toured a tent city and promised that no one would be “left on the streets.” He acknowledged that the response had started slowly but dismissed criticism that the government needed to do more.
“One cannot be prepared for such a catastrophe,” said Erdogan. “The state works primarily with the municipalities (disaster authorities) together with all means.”
YOU CAN HELP:How to donate to earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts in Turkey and Syria
Find occasional bright spots
In the Turkish city of Adana, about 100 miles southwest of the epicenter in Kahramanmaraş, volunteer Bekir Bicer found a live blue-and-yellow bird in a smashed birdcage in the rubble of a collapsed 14-story building nearly 60 hours after the earthquake struck.
“I was very happy,” said Bicer. “I nearly cried.”
Such rare cases give hope to the families of those still missing – who are likely buried under the rubble of some of the more than 5,600 collapsed buildings – even as the chances of finding survivors are diminishing.
Suat Yarkan, 50, said his aunt and her two daughters lived in an apartment on the fourth floor of the building. He clung to the hope that they could be saved.
“Look at the bird. Sixty hours,’ he said. “It makes me feel like maybe God will help us… I have to believe that they will all recover.”
White Helmets mourn their own, seek financial help
The British government has pledged more funding for the White Helmets, a voluntary civil defense organization in Syria. The opposition-controlled White Helmets were organized in 2014 during the Syrian civil war to help with civilian evacuations and rescue operations after bombings in rebel-held areas. Now the group has been pushed into the service of earthquake relief. At least four of their own members died in the quake, the group said on Wednesday.
“We still hear the screams and groans of those trapped under the rubble asking for help, thousands of victims and thousands of missing,” the group said in a Twitter post. “Please help our response to save more lives by donating.”
DEADLY EARTHQUAKE HIT THE REGION BEFORE:Why there? Could a similar tremor hit the US?
The winter cold contributes to the suffering of the homeless
The cold made life difficult for those who had lost their homes. Many survivors had to sleep in cars, outdoors or in government housing in temperatures as high as 20 degrees.
“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a stove, we don’t have anything. Our children are in bad shape. We all get wet under the rain and our kids are out in the cold,” said Aysan Kurt, 27. “We didn’t die of starvation or earthquakes, but we will die of the cold.”
International teams join thousands of local first responders
Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of responders on the ground, and pledges of help have been poured in from around the world. Searchers from France, Spain and Russia were among the foreign teams who tweeted photos of their efforts on the ground. The US sent two teams of about 80 people each.
But the magnitude of the destruction from the 7.8-magnitude quake and its powerful aftershocks was so immense — and so widespread, even in areas isolated by Syria’s ongoing civil war — that millions are still waiting for help.
The Adana restaurateur provides food and accommodation
A kebab restaurant owner in southern Turkey’s Adana province opened three restaurants for earthquake survivors. He told Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency that he believes it is the safest place for the homeless.
“It rained,” Salih Oral said. “We saw people waiting in their cars, sitting on the sidewalk, or just walking around with nowhere to go.”
Oral said he provided free food, soup and tea to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Oral said he is also sending groceries to nearby towns affected by the quakes.
Didem Incekuran, 24, has been staying at the restaurant since Monday and said she was grateful to Oral.
“We don’t want to go home yet. We feel safe here,” said Incekuran.
Contribution: The Associated Press