Earthquake death toll surpasses 41,000 in Turkey and Syria
By Sarah El Deeb And Suzan Fraser
Rescuers have pulled more survivors from the debris of the Feb. 6 earthquake that devastated parts of Turkey and Syria even as the window for finding people alive is closing fast.
Here’s a look at the key developments Friday from the aftermath of the earthquake.
Death toll rises
The Turkish disaster management agency has updated the death toll from the powerful earthquake in Turkey to 38,044, raising the overall number of fatalities in both Turkey and Syria to 41,732.
The death toll is certain to increase further as search teams retrieve more bodies amid the devastation.
The powerful 7.8 earthquake has become Turkey’s deadliest disaster in modern history.
More survivors rescued
More than 10 days after the powerful earthquake struck, rescuers overnight pulled out a child, a woman and two men alive from wreckage.
The latest rescues came as crews began clearing up debris in cities devastated by the earthquake.
Neslihan Kilic, a 29-year-old mother of two, was removed from the rubble of a building in Kahramanmaras, after being trapped for 258 hours, the private DHA news agency reported late Thursday.
In the city of Antakya, police rescue crews found 12-year-old Osman alive after retrieving 17 bodies from a collapsed building.
“Just when our hopes were over, we reached our brother Osman at the 260th hour,” police rescue team leader Okan Tosun told DHA.
An hour later, crews reached two men inside the debris of a collapsed hospital in Antakya.
One of them, Mustafa Avci, used the mobile phone of a rescuer to call his brother and ask about family members.
“Have they all survived?” he asked. “Let me hear their voices.”
UN aid crosses into Syria
A total of 143 trucks carrying aid from Turkey into northwest Syria have crossed the border since Feb. 9, a United Nations official said.
Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the trucks are carrying a “multitude” of items from six U.N. agencies – including tents, mattresses, blankets, winter clothes, cholera testing kits, essential medicines, and food from the World Food Program. They crossed through the border gates of Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salameh, he said.
Meanwhile, The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, said it was working closely with Turkey to determine the steps needed to rehabilitate infrastructure in the agricultural sector damaged by the quake, including irrigation systems, roads, markets and storage capacity.
“In Syria, rapid assessments by FAO of areas affected by the earthquakes suggest major disruption to crop and livestock production capacity, threatening immediate and longer-term food security,” the Rome-based agency said in a statement.
At least 1,522 bodies of Syrians have been brought back to Syria from Turkey for burial across the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, an official at the crossing said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor, reported that when the numbers from other, smaller crossings are tallied, the total number of bodies brought back to Syria for burial is 1,745.
Syrian survivors have also begun crossing back from Turkey. Some 1,795 Syrians crossed from Turkey into Syria on Wednesday, the first day after Turkey issued a decision allowing Syrian refugees impacted by the earthquake to return to their country temporarily without losing their protected status in Turkey, an official at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing said.
The decision allows holders of Turkish temporary protection cards residing in earthquake-damaged areas to cross into Syria without having to obtain a travel permit from Turkish authorities. Normally if a Syrian holding protected status in were to cross into Syria without a permit, they would be considered by Turkish authorities to have relinquished their status as asylum-seekers and would be required to surrender their protection cards and banned from re-entry for five years.
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