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Earthquake toll passes 46,000 as search for survivors ends

As Turkey attempts to manage its worst modern disaster, concerns were growing for the victims of the tragedy in Syria, with the World Food Program pressuring authorities in the northwest to stop blocking access to the area as it seeks to help hundreds of thousands of people ravaged by earthquakes

More than 46,000 people have been killed in the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria and the toll is expected to soar, with some 345,000 apartments in Turkey known to have been destroyed, and many people still missing.

As Turkey attempts to manage its worst modern disaster, concerns were growing for the victims of the tragedy in Syria, with the World Food Programme pressuring authorities in the northwest to stop blocking access to the area as it seeks to help hundreds of thousands of people ravaged by earthquakes.

Twelve days after the quake hit, workers from Kyrgyzstan tried to save a Syrian family of five from the rubble of a building in Antakya city in southern Turkey.

Three people, including a child, were rescued alive. The mother and father survived but the child died later of dehydration, the rescue team said. One older sister and a twin did not make it.

“We heard shouts when we were digging today an hour ago. When we find people who are alive, we are always happy,” Atay Osmanov, a member of the rescue team, told Reuters.

Ten ambulances waited on a nearby street that was blocked to traffic to allow the rescue work.

Workers asked for silence and for everybody to crouch or sit as the teams climbed to the top of the rubble of the building where the family was found to listen for more sounds using an electronic detector.

As rescue efforts continued, one worker yelled into the rubble: “Take a deep breath if you can hear my voice.”

End to search efforts nears

The head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, Yunus Sezer, said the search and rescue efforts will largely be terminated on Sunday night.

The death toll in Turkey stands at 40,642 from the quake while neighboring Syria has reported more than 5,800 deaths, a toll that has not changed for days.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, World Food Program Director David Beasley said the Syrian and Turkish governments had been cooperating very well, but that its operations were being hampered in northwestern Syria.

The agency last week said it was running out of stocks there and called for more border crossings to be opened from Turkey.

“The problems we are running into [are with] the cross-line operations into northwest Syria where the northwestern Syrian authorities are not giving us the access we need,” Beasley said. “That is bottlenecking our operations. That has to get fixed straight away.”

“Time is running out and we are running out of money,” Beasley said. “Our operation is about $50 million a month for our earthquake response alone so unless Europe wants a new wave of refugees, we need to get the support we need.”

Multiple Factors Hampering Delivery of Aid to Syria Quake Areas

In Syria, already shattered by more than a decade of civil war, the bulk of fatalities have been in the northwest.

The area is controlled by insurgents at war with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, which has complicated efforts to get aid to people.

Public health concerns

Medics and experts voiced concerns over the possible spread of infection in the area where tens of thousands of buildings collapsed last week leaving sanitation infrastructure damaged.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday that although there had been a rise in intestinal and upper respiratory infections, the numbers did not pose a serious threat to public health.

Aid organizations say, with so much crucial infrastructure destroyed, the survivors will need help for months to come.

 

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