SANLIURFA, Turkey: A massive rescue effort in Turkey and Syria battled frigid weather in a race against time Tuesday to find survivors under buildings flattened by an earthquake that killed more than 7,800 people.
Tremors that inflicted more suffering on a border area already plagued by conflict left people on the streets burning debris to try to stay warm.
Rescuers were working on collapsed apartments with heavy equipment as a worldwide relief effort promised food, search teams and equipment for the disaster zone.
The 7.8-magnitude quake struck Monday as people slept, flattening thousands of structures, trapping an unknown number of people and potentially impacting millions. The destruction led to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring Tuesday a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces.
A winter storm has compounded the misery by rendering many roads -- some of them damaged by the quake -- almost impassable, resulting in traffic jams that stretch for kilometres in some regions. The cold rain and snow are a risk both for people forced from their homes, who took refuge in mosques, schools or even bus shelters, and the survivors buried under debris. “It is now a race against time,” said World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have activated the WHO network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care for the injured and most vulnerable,” he added.
Turkey put the latest death toll at 3,419 in that country alone, bringing the confirmed tally in both Turkey and Syria to 5,021. There are fears that the toll will rise inexorably, with WHO officials estimating up to 20,000 may have died. WHO warned that up to 23 million people could be affected by the massive earthquake and urged nations to rush help to the disaster zone.
In the Turkish city of Sanliurfa, survivors of the massive quake that has wreaked death, destruction and havoc on the region face an invisible but powerful threat, hunger.
The Syrian Red Crescent appealed to Western countries to lift sanctions and provide aid as President Bashar al-Assad’s government remains a pariah in the West, complicating international relief efforts. The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO also said it was ready to provide assistance after two sites listed on its World Heritage list in Syria and Turkey sustained damage.
In addition to the damage to Aleppo’s old city and the fortress in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, UNESCO said at least three other World Heritage sites could be affected.
Residents in the quake-devastated town of Jandairis in northern Syria used their bare hands and pickaxes to for survivors, as that was all they had to get the job done. The Syrian health ministry reported damage across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus, where Russia is leasing a naval facility.
Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Brahim Taha appealed to the Member states and the international partners to extend urgent humanitarian assistance in support of the victims of the grave earthquake.
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