Mass graves for victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria
Mass graves were dug as more than 33,000 people died in the border region between Turkey and Syria after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
Claire Hardwick, USA TODAY
The death toll from historic earthquakes that shook Turkey and Syria a week ago continued to rise Monday, although miraculous rescues have fueled the faintest hope for survivors searching for information on the fate of their loved ones.
Rescuers in Turkey rescued a 10-year-old girl from the rubble of an apartment block in Turkey’s southern province of Kahramanmaras on Monday, 183 hours after a devastating earthquake struck the region, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported.
A few hours earlier, Bünyamin İdacı, 35, was taken alive from a destroyed building in Adiyamanyaman. The search and rescue team, including 20 Somali miners, had intensified their work to hear sounds coming from the wreck. Team leader İlhan Colak told TRT the crew worked for five days and helped with many rescue operations.
“We saved another life with the work we did,” said Colak. “I can’t find words to speak.”
Earlier Monday, Naide Umay, 70, was rescued from a collapsed building in Antakya, a 40-year-old woman was rescued from the rubble of a five-story building in the city of Islahiye, and a 60-year-old survivor was rescued in Besni.
Nonetheless, thousands of bodies were also removed from collapsed buildings. Some survivors waited at the site of collapsed buildings for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered. And a week after the earthquake, many people were still homeless on the streets.
The 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude tremors struck on February 6, nine hours apart, in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. Numerous powerful aftershocks added to the damage as thousands of buildings collapsed. The confirmed death toll stood at more than 36,000 for the two nations on Monday and is expected to rise in the coming days.
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►Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights from Hatay Airport and evacuations are underway. The airport’s runway was damaged by the earthquake.
►Hundreds gathered in New York’s Time Square on Sunday to commemorate earthquake victims.
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The senior United Nations relief official said he was encouraged by the increase in aid convoys rolling into Syria on Monday but warned more needs to be done as the death toll from occasional miraculous rescues continues to mount.
“I am encouraged by the expansion of convoys from the UN transit center to the Turkish border,” tweeted Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief. “We need to open more access points and get more help quickly.”
Griffiths previously lamented that the relief effort had “abandoned the people of north-west Syria”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that members of the alliance had agreed to provide shelter “as soon as possible” to accommodate people displaced by the earthquakes. Thousands of rescue workers assisted in the salvage, including search and rescue teams, firefighters, medical workers and seismic experts, he said. He said NATO is in “strong solidarity” with Turkey.
Stoltenberg emphasized that the earthquakes will have long-term consequences.
“I think it’s important that we get support quickly, but also that we can actually stay,” he said.
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The earthquake death toll in Syria’s northwestern rebel region has reached 2,166, according to rescue group White Helmets. The total death toll in Syria was more than 4,600.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, UN Ambassador to the United Nations, called for “urgent action” regarding a UN Security Council resolution to authorize additional cross-border humanitarian access to Syria. She cited calls from Griffiths and other UN leaders for two additional transitions to provide much-needed aid.
“Right now, every hour counts,” she said in a statement. “The people in the affected areas are counting on us. … They appeal to our common humanity to lend a hand in their moment of need. We cannot abandon them.”
Contribution: The Associated Press