A man sits in the rubble of a building destroyed by an earthquake in the Turkish city of Antakya, February 12, 2023.
Ankara/Damascus – Monday's devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has already claimed more than 33,000 human lives. The number of victims of the disaster so far has increased as Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) reported 29,605 dead today. In Syria, according to the latest balance, more than 3,500 people did not survive the earthquake. But Syria has not released an updated death toll as of Friday, so the toll is likely to be higher, the BBC reported.
Photo gallery: Earthquake in Turkey and Syria
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks hit southern Turkey and northwestern Syria on Monday. The natural disaster leveled countless buildings. Rescuers, even with international help, are still searching the wreckage of houses. Rescuers from the Czech Republic have so far rescued 34 dead from the rubble in the Turkish city of Adiyaman, rescued two survivors and assisted colleagues from another team in rescuing one woman.
Even six days after the earthquake, rescuers were still finding survivors. Today, according to Reuters, several people, including children, were rescued from the rubble of collapsed buildings in Hatay province. Among them was a toddler, a ten-year-old girl and a father with a five-year-old daughter. Turkish media also reported on the rescue of a thirteen-year-old boy in Gaziantep. “You are a miracle,” the rescuers said of him. However, the hopes of saving other people are rapidly decreasing as time progresses.
Six days after the earthquake, grief turns to anger and tension over the feeling that the response to the disaster was ineffective, unfair and disproportionate. Many people in Turkey are expressing frustration that rescue efforts are slow, according to the AP. Some – particularly in Hatay province near the border with Syria – are angry that the Turkish government has been late in providing aid to the region. They believe that there are political and religious reasons behind this. But there is no evidence that the region is being overlooked for sectarian reasons.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged problems, such as difficulties in delivering aid. According to him, however, the situation was brought under control. At the same time, he rejected accusations of insufficient aid.
Security in the earthquake-hit area has come under the spotlight in recent days. There were reports of looting, on Saturday the Austrian army and German rescue organizations suspended work. They justified this by concerns about the safety of rescuers. In the meantime, according to the APA agency, members of the Austrian specialized unit have partially resumed the rescue work, under the protection of the Turkish army.
In Syria, the search and humanitarian aid is complicated by the complex internal political and security situation. Access to regions under the control of insurgent groups in the north-west of the country is particularly difficult. Little aid has reached the area, as the front lines separating rebel territory from the government-controlled part of the country are closed and only one border crossing connects it with Turkey.