- The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria left a trail of destruction, with thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed and a confirmed death toll of 35,224.
- Rescuers search for survivors, using thermal cameras and shovels to remove debris and get closer to those trapped in ruins.
- The tragedy has highlighted the need for better building practices and infrastructure in the region and the UN’s failure to provide adequate aid to Syria, already devastated by years of war.
Shocking images taken from a drone showed massive cracks in a road in Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter of the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria a week ago.
The Turkish town was one of the hardest hit by the quake. There, 30,000 tents have been set up, 48,000 people are in schools, and another 11,500 people are sheltered in sports centers.
Hundreds of rescue teams are deployed in Kahramanmaras, but rescuers have finished their work in seven areas of the province.
The search for survivors continues
Meanwhile, using thermal cameras and shovels, rescuers were still searching Monday for at least two survivors in the ruins of a damaged building.
“We saw them yesterday, we saw them today, they are still alive, they are still in very good condition,” Turkey’s head of the volunteer medical care team, Burcu Baldov, told Reuters, adding, “It is already a miracle.”
For more than 24 hours, rescuers have carefully removed debris, deepening their tunnel and thus gradually getting closer to the survivors.
“The building inside is very dangerously collapsed…. So in Turkey, we say we are ‘digging with our fingernails,’ one by one, slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly,” Baldov said.
The confirmed death toll from the quake is 35,224, 31,643 in Turkey, and 3,581 in Syria, making it the fifth deadliest cataclysm since the beginning of the 21st century.
The UN denounced the failure to send aid to Syria, a country devastated by more than a decade of war.
In Syria, the death toll has remained stable for days so that the balance may rise, and with each passing day, the chances of finding survivors diminish.
Places of worship destroyed
The Turkish city of Antakya, an ancient town known as Antioch in antiquity, was also flattened, and the earthquake toppled the oldest mosque in the country.
“This place has a very important meaning for us,” sighed Havva Pamukcu. “It was a cherished place for all of us, Turks and Muslims. People had the custom of coming here before making the pilgrimage to Mecca.”
A few meters away, an Orthodox church founded in the 14th century – and rebuilt in 1870 after an earlier earthquake – lost all its walls.
In the city, debris removal teams began work and set up emergency toilets, and an AFP reporter said telephone signals were back.
Antakya is patrolled by a large contingent of police and military to prevent looting over the weekend.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Sunday that 108,000 buildings were damaged across the quake-hit area and that 1.2 million people are being sheltered in student rooms, and 400,000 people were evacuated from the region.
Outrage is growing in Turkey over the poor quality of buildings and the government’s response.