Death toll from Turkey, Syria earthquakes rises to 46,000, as rescuers falter


More than 46,400 people have died across Syria and Turkey after earthquakes rocked the region nearly two weeks ago, officials said. In the final days of search and rescue operations, emergency workers managed to pull a handful of individuals alive from the rubble.

Yunus Sezer, head of Turkey’s AFAD disaster management agency, said On Saturday the number of deaths in the country had increased since February 6 to at least 40,642 people. More than 4,400 people have also died in rebel-held northwestern Syria, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said. The Syrian government’s Ministry of Health has recorded at least 1,414 deaths.

“The biggest disaster in our history has happened,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference Saturday, speaking through an interpreter. “If you go to the site, you will realize how serious the situation is compared to what you see on your TV screens.”

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I hope to recover more survivors decreasing by the hour, as those who are still trapped close to 13 days without food or water. AFAD expects to end most of its rescue efforts by Sunday night, according to VOA News.

In Turkey, rescuers managed to pull a couple and their 12-year-old child alive from a collapsed apartment building in Hatay province about 12 days after the earthquakes, but the child later died, the Turkish broadcaster reported TRT World.

Christian Atsu, a soccer player from Ghana who spent several years in the English Premier League, was among the victims. His agents announced that his body was recovered from the rubble on Saturday.

Most of the foreign search and rescue teams that helped in Turkey left the country late Saturday, according to Cavusoglu. School in Turkey’s affected provinces is expected to resume early this week, National Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said. said.

The earthquakes have wreaked havoc across parts of southern Turkey and northwestern Syria, displacing thousands and forcing them into makeshift cities full of shipping container homes or rows of tents. Around 84,700 buildings have collapsed, are damaged or require immediate demolition, according to Murat Kurum, head of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, said Friday.

The Turkish government says it aims to rebuild about 30,000 buildings within a year. In northwestern Syria, at least 9,000 buildings have been completely or partially destroyed, the UNOCHA said.

Emergency aid from the United Nations continued to enter Syria through border openings in places such as Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam over the weekend. On Saturday, the director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, told Reuters that authorities in northwestern Syria were blocking access to the country and “screening” operations.

“That has to be resolved immediately,” he said.

At least 70 aid workers died in the earthquakes, according to the UNOCHA, including individuals who participated in the implementation of United Nations cross-border aid.

Semanur Karayaka contributed to this report.

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