The death toll in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria exceeded 11 thousand people


Hope faded as the death toll in Turkey and Syria exceeded 11,000

As hope of finding survivors faded, sprawling rescue teams worked through the night in Turkey and Syria, searching for signs of life under the rubble of thousands of buildings destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake. The death toll rose today, Wednesday, to more than 11,000, in the deadliest earthquake in the world in more than a decade.

Amid calls for the Turkish government to send more aid to the disaster area, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured the "tent city" in Kahramanmaras, where people forced from their homes live. He acknowledged shortcomings early in the response but vowed that no one would be "left on the streets."

Search teams from over two dozen countries joined tens of thousands of local emergency workers, and pledges of aid poured in from around the world. But the scale of devastation caused by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and its powerful aftershocks has been so massive - and spread so widely, including to areas cut off by the ongoing civil war in Syria - that many are still waiting for help.

In the Turkish city of Malatya, bodies were laid side by side on the ground, covered with blankets, while rescuers waited for funeral cars to take them away, according to former journalist Ozel Bekal who saw eight bodies being pulled from the rubble of the building.

Bekal, involved in the rescue effort, said he believes some victims may have frozen to death as temperatures dropped to -6 degrees Celsius (21 Fahrenheit).

"Today is not a happy day because even today, there is no hope left in Malatya," Bekal told the Associated Press by phone. "No one gets out alive from under the rubble."

A hotel building collapsed in the city, Bikal said, and more than 100 people may be trapped.

He said there was a shortage of rescuers in the area he was in, and rescue efforts by volunteers and government teams needed to be improved by the cold. Road closures and damage in the area also impeded movement and access.

"Our hands can't catch anything because of the cold," Bikal said. "Working machines are required."

The scale of the suffering was staggering in a region already reeling from more than a decade of civil war in Syria that has displaced millions within the country and sent many more seeking refuge in Turkey. With thousands of buildings down, it is unclear how many people may still be trapped under the rubble.

Turkey's disaster management agency said the death toll in the country exceeded 8,500. Syria's health ministry said the death toll in government-held areas had risen to more than 1,200, while at least 1,400 people had died in the rebel-held northwest. , according to volunteer responders known as the White Helmets.

That brings the total to 11,000 since Monday's quake and multiple powerful aftershocks. Tens of thousands were injured.

The 2011 earthquake near Japan that triggered a tsunami left nearly 20,000 dead. Neither Turkey nor Syria have provided figures on the number of people still missing, as Pope Francis asked during his weekly general audience for prayers and solidarity demonstrations in the aftermath of the "devastating" earthquake.

Syrian officials said the bodies of more than 100 Syrians who died during the earthquake in Turkey had been brought back to their homes for burial through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. Another 20 bodies were on their way to the border, said Mazen Alloush, an official on the Syrian side of the border, adding that they are all Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country.

As concerns grow about those still trapped, Polish rescue workers working in Turkey said they had pulled nine people alive from the rubble, including the parents of two and a 13-year-old girl, from the ruins in Pisnye.

They conceded that low temperatures were working against them, although two firefighters told Polish TVN24 that the fact that people had been trapped in bed under warm blankets because of the pre-dawn quake could help. Rescuers are currently trying to reach a woman they know is in her bed.

Almost two days after the earthquake, rescuers pulled out a 3-year-old boy, Arif Kan, from the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in Kahramanmaras, not far from the epicenter.

With the boy's lower body confined under slabs of concrete and twisted iron, emergency crews placed a blanket over his torso to protect him from below-freezing temperatures as they cut debris away from him, mindful of the possibility of causing another collapse.

The boy's father, Ertuğrul Kesey, whose son had been rescued earlier, sobbed and was taken to an ambulance.

"Currently, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kan," a Turkish TV reporter stated as the dramatic rescue operation was broadcast to the country.

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