ANTAKYA (Reuters) – Nine survivors were recovered from the debris in Turkey on Tuesday, more than a week after a major earthquake hit, as the emphasis of the assistance effort moved to assisting those without shelter or sufficient food in the freezing cold.
With a cumulative death toll of over 41,000 in Turkey and neighbouring Syria, the tragedy has devastated cities in both nations, leaving many survivors homeless in near-freezing winter weather.
President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has admitted faults in the first reaction to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that occurred early on February 6, but has said that the issue is now under control.
Erdogan remarked in a broadcast address in Ankara, “We are confronting one of the worst natural catastrophes not just in our nation, but in the history of mankind.”
Tuesday’s rescues included two brothers, ages 17 and 21, hauled from an apartment building in the province of Kahramanmaras, and a Syrian man and young lady wearing a leopard-print hijab rescued in Antakya after spending more than 200 hours beneath the wreckage. One rescuer said that there may be further survivors to discover.
However, according to U.N. officials, the rescue phase is nearing to a conclusion, with the emphasis now shifting to shelter, food, and education.
“A great deal of human misery exists. We requested a tent, help, or anything else, but have not yet received anything “Hassan Saimoua, a refugee living with his family in a playground in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, said as much.
Saimoua and other Syrians who had sought asylum in Gaziantep from their civil conflict at home but were rendered homeless by the earthquake constructed improvised tents in the playground using plastic sheets, blankets, and cardboard.
Hans Henri P. Kluge, the head of the World Health Organization in Europe, observed, “The demands are enormous and growing by the hour.” About 26 million people in both nations need humanitarian aid.
Emerging health hazards related to cold weather, cleanliness and sanitation, and the transmission of infectious illnesses are also a developing concern, with disadvantaged populations being particularly at risk.
At a Turkish field hospital in the southern city of Iskenderun, Major Beena Tiwari of the Indian Army said that initially, victims had come with physical wounds, but this was changing.
“Now more people are presenting with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the trauma they had during the earthquake,” she added.
Families in Turkey and Syria said that they and their children were coping with the psychological effects of the earthquake.
“Whenever he forgets, he hears a tremendous noise and then recalls,” said Hassan Moaz of Aleppo, Syria, of his 9-year-old son. “When he hears a disturbance while sleeping at night, he wakes up and informs me, ‘Dad, aftershock!'”
The first U.N. relief convoy entered rebel-held northwest Syria through the newly-opened Bab al-Salam border between Turkey and Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed on Monday to allow U.N. supplies to enter the rebel enclave from Turkey via two more border crossings, signalling a reversal for Damascus, which has traditionally blocked cross-border aid delivery.
The United Nations said that almost 9 million people in Syria were impacted by the earthquake and issued a $400 million fundraising appeal.
Raed al Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets’ primary rescue organisation, said that the hunt for survivors was close to conclude in the northwestern region of Syria.
Russia also said that it was winding down its search and rescue operations in Turkey and Syria and ready to leave.
Erdogan said that the death toll in Turkey was 35,3418. According to a Reuters compilation of data from Syrian official media and a U.N. agency, over 5,814 people have died in Syria.
Survivors joined a huge evacuation from earthquake-affected areas, fleeing their homes unclear of whether or not they would ever return.
“It’s incredibly difficult… We will begin with nothing, without possessions or a job “Hamza Bekry, a 22-year-old Syrian from Idlib who has lived in Antakya, in southern Turkey, for 12 years, but is willing to follow his family to Isparta, also in southern Turkey, stated thus.
More than 2,2 million people have already fled the worst-affected regions, according to Erdogan, and hundreds of thousands of structures have become inhabitable.