2023 Turkey earthquake death toll: Survivors still being found as Turkey and Syria earthquake death toll tops 28,000

ANTAKYA, Turkey — Ibrahim Zakaria lost track of time, appearing and passing out after being stuck in the ruins of his home for almost five days after a massive earthquake hit Turkey and Syria this week.

A 23-year-old cell phone store worker from the Syrian city of Jable survived on dirty water drops and eventually lost hope of being rescued.

“I said I was dead and it would be impossible for me to live again,” Zakaria, who was rescued Friday night, told The Associated Press on Saturday from his bed in a hospital in the coastal city of Latakia, where his 60-year-old elderly mother, The spirit of Nuralla was also recovering.

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Five days after two massive earthquakes hours apart caused thousands of buildings to collapse, killing more than 28,000 people and leaving millions homeless, rescuers were still pulling out unlikely survivors from the rubble – one of them only 7 months old. .

Although each rescue caused hugs and cries of “Allah Akbar!” – “God is great!” – Of the weary men and women working tirelessly in the freezing cold to save lives, they were the exception in a region engulfed in grief, despair and growing disillusionment.

More than a dozen survivors were rescued on Saturday, including a family in Kahramanmaras, the Turkish city closest to the epicenter of Monday’s quake. Rescuers helped 12-year-old Nehir Naz Narli escape before returning for her parents.

In the province of Gaziantep, which borders Syria, a family of five people was rescued from a demolished building in the city of Nurdagi, and a man and his 3-year-old daughter were pulled out of the rubble in the city of Islahiye, HaberTurk TV channel reports. A 7-year-old girl was also rescued in Hatay province.

In Elbistan, a district of Kahramanmaras province, 20-year-old Melisa Ulku and another person were rescued from rubble 132 hours after the earthquake. Before she was taken to safety, the police asked the audience not to cheer or cheer so as not to interfere with nearby rescue efforts.

Turkish TV channel NTV reported that a 44-year-old man in Iskenderun, Hatay province, was rescued 138 hours after his ordeal. The crying rescuers called it a miracle, and one of them said that they did not expect to find anyone alive, but when they were digging, his eyes saw and he gave his name. In the same province, NTV also reported that a boy named Hamza was found alive in Antakya 140 hours after the earthquake. Some of the details of his rescue, including how he survived for so long, were not immediately clear.

Not all attempts ended successfully. Zeynep Kahraman, who was pulled from the rubble after an impressive 50-hour rescue operation, died overnight in hospital. The German ISAR team that rescued her was shocked and saddened.

“It is important that the family can say goodbye, so that they can see each other again, so that they can hug each other again,” a member of the rescue team told German news channel n-tv.

The rescue comes amid growing dissatisfaction with the Turkish government’s response to the earthquake, which has killed 24,617 people and injured at least 80,000 in Turkey alone.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted earlier this week that initial action had been hampered by extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure, making it difficult to reach some points. He also said that the most affected area is 500 kilometers (310 miles) in diameter and is home to 13.5 million people in Turkey.

This meant that rescuers had to choose how and where to help.

During a tour of earthquake-hit cities on Saturday, Erdogan said a natural disaster of this magnitude is rare and again called it “the catastrophe of the century.”

But the problems the relief effort faced offered little comfort to those who were waiting for help.

In Antakya, the provincial capital of Hatay, scattered rescue teams were still hard at work, but by Saturday, many residents had left. Among those who remained were people whose families were still buried. Many of them camped on the streets all day and slept in cars.

On a tip, a rescue team from Hong Kong on Saturday found three survivors under a building near the city center, said Gallant Wong, a spokesman for the group.

But local resident Bulent Chifkifli said he waited days for crews to remove his mother’s body from her destroyed home. He said rescuers were working to retrieve her body at one point, but they were called to another location because they suspected there were survivors.

“Six days later, we don’t know how many of them are still under the rubble and how many are dead or alive,” Chifchifly said, blaming the lack of heavy equipment.

Yazi al-Ali, a Syrian refugee who came to Antakya from Reyhanla, lives in a tent while waiting for crews to find her mother, two sisters, one of whom is pregnant, and their families. At some point, she stood over the ruins of a house in the old center of Antakya, where, in her opinion, her pregnant sister was buried, and in a broken voice cried out her sister’s name: “Raja!”

“No one answers us, and no one comes to watch,” she said. “They didn’t let us look for ourselves. I do not know why”.

Even though experts say trapped people can survive a week or more, the chances of finding new survivors are rapidly diminishing. Rescuers have switched to thermal imaging cameras to help identify life in the wreckage, a sign that any survivors may be too weak to call for help.

As aid continued to flow on Saturday, a 99-strong Indian Army medical team began treating the wounded at a makeshift field hospital in the southern city of Iskenderun, where the main hospital was destroyed.

One man, Shukru Dzhanbulat, was taken to the hospital, his left leg was badly injured with deep bruises, bruises and lacerations.

Wincing in pain, he said he was rescued from a collapsed apartment building in nearby Antakya hours after the quake. But after providing basic first aid, he was released without receiving proper treatment.

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“I buried (everyone I lost), then I came here,” Dzhanbulat said, counting his dead relatives. “My daughter died, my brother died, my aunt and her daughter died, and her son’s wife,” who was 8 months pregnant.

On Saturday, a large makeshift cemetery was being built on the outskirts of Antakya. Excavators and bulldozers were digging holes in the field, and trucks and ambulances loaded with black body bags kept arriving. Soldiers directing traffic on a busy adjacent road warned motorists not to take pictures.

Hundreds of graves, spaced no more than 3 feet (meters) apart, were marked with simple wooden boards dug vertically into the ground.

An official from the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs, who did not want to be named because of an order not to share information with the media, said that on Friday, his first day of work, about 800 bodies were delivered to the cemetery. By Saturday afternoon, he said, 2,000 people had been buried.

The disaster has exacerbated suffering in a region engulfed by a 12-year Syrian civil war that has displaced millions of people internally and made them dependent on aid. The fighting has forced millions of people to seek refuge in Turkey.

The conflict has isolated many parts of Syria and has complicated efforts to deliver aid. The United Nations said the first earthquake relief convoy arrived from Turkey in northwestern Syria on Friday, a day after the arrival of a pre-disaster aid shipment. The United Nations Refugee Agency has estimated that 5.3 million people were left homeless in Syria alone.

The death toll in the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria has risen to 2,166, according to the White Helmets rescue group. The total death toll in Syria on Saturday stood at 3,553, although the 1,387 deaths recorded in government-controlled parts of the country have not been updated for days.


Spike reported from Antakya, Turkey, while Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul. Bassem Mrow in Beirut, Gate Alsayed in Bab al-Hawa, Syria, Sarah El Dib in Antakya, Turkey, and Susan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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