Earthquake in Türkiye-Syria: The clock is ticking against harsh weather conditions.

- International - February 9, 2023
Earthquake in Turkiye-Syria: The clock is ticking against harsh weather conditions
Earthquake in Turkiye-Syria: The clock is ticking against harsh weather conditions
  • The first UN aid convoy crossed the border from Turkiye to northwestern Syria on Thursday.
  • Rescue teams have urged residents eagerly awaiting news from loved ones to remain calm as they try to search for signs of life beneath the rubble.

ANKARA: Cansu Cilingir, a choir member and music teacher in the southern Turkish city of Hatay, sang “Autumn Leaves” just two months ago. Originally an opera singer, Cilingir delivered a moving performance with her melodious voice, unaware that tragedy would mean an early end to her career in just a short time.

After being buried for three days under the rubble of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkiye as she and her neighbors waited for help from a single crane, Cilingir died around noon on Wednesday.

“We … dear friend Cansu lost. We will always remember her with her beautiful voice, sincerity, and smile,” said Masis Aram Gozbek, conductor of the Magma Choir, where Cilingir had been a singer for a long time. Over 14,014 people have been killed in Turkiye and 3,162 in neighboring Syria, according to the latest figures, which continue to rise. More than 100,000 rescuers are currently deployed in 10 provinces of Turkiye after Monday’s twin quakes.

The first UN aid convoy crossed the border from Turkiye to northwestern Syria on Thursday.

Given the geographical scale of the disaster, local citizens have drawn attention to the urgent need for cranes, excavators, and lifting platforms to clear the debris and speed up search and rescue efforts.

There were reports from the region that AFAD teams could not work in buildings where they could not hear voices.

Rescue teams have urged residents, eagerly awaiting news from loved ones, to remain calm as they try to search for signs of life under the rubble. Taha Duymaz’s sister, who made a name for herself with the food videos he shot at his low-income home in Hatay and amassed 1.2 million followers on Instagram, pleaded for rescue for her brother and other relatives. She said emergency services had been shut down because the teams could not hear the voices of the victims from the rubble.

Duymaz had posted a video on TikTok a few hours before the first quake. His sister believes that he may have fainted, which would explain why he could not call for help under the rubble. AFAD completed its rescue and search efforts in a few cities, including Kilis and Sanliurfa. There have been some miraculous rescues where people were pulled out of the rubble after four days. However, these were usually young people, children, and babies – and rarely adults – who managed to stay safe in a confined space under the rubble.

International support in search and rescue efforts has been remarkable, with France and Spain immediately working to establish field hospitals in the region. The Turkish government has erected tents and temporary shelters outside the quake area and provided sports centers, shelters, and similar locations for those who wanted to leave the disaster area.

Mobile kitchens and bakeries are also being built with government and civil society efforts. A sports center in Kahramanmaras has been converted into a mortuary, but several survivors told Arab News they urgently need shrouds and vehicles to bring bodies to the cemeteries as victims’ families had to carry their dead loved ones with trolleys. Many people have said that there is a strong smell of corpses on the streets.

Earthquake in Türkiye-Syria: The clock is ticking against harsh weather conditions.

Ayse Yildiz, a professional search and rescue force who had previously participated in the catastrophic 7.6-magnitude Marmara earthquake, was dispatched to the southeastern province of Malatya yesterday to help with rescue operations. An academic by profession who deals with international refugee law, she spent the night searching for survivors under a collapsed building and slept briefly on the floor, as there was no tent big enough to accommodate all the volunteers in the region.

But Yildiz, who is back on an intensive rescue operation after a sleepless night, is aware that the clock is ticking.

“We just removed bodies under the rubble. No one lives in these freezing temperatures. Hatay province was less cold than Malatya, but here rain and snow threaten the lives of those trapped under the rubble and end up dying of hypothermia,” she told Arab News. “We thank all the international rescue teams here who are making great efforts to help victims and survivors. I’ve seen Maltese and Italian teams so far,” Yildiz said.

In some parts of Malatya, aid workers have drawn attention to inadequate equipment and tents where rescue teams can take short breaks and sleep in shifts. “We only use human violence. I descended into the rubble, but I couldn’t remove any of it because it had crumbled to pieces. I left my little one behind in Izmir, and I wanted so much to save a child’s life here. It seems impossible. After a while, there will be a serious problem with hygiene and diseases here,” Yildiz said.

In the southeastern province of Adiyaman, another zone severely affected by the earthquake, some survivors died of internal bleeding after being rescued. Meral Unver told Arab News.

“My student Nazim Can Hartlap was rescued from the rubble of the hotel where he was staying on the first day, but we lost him afterward because he succumbed to internal injuries. When he came to Eskisehir Anadolu University, he had financial problems, but we found him a place to stay. He has worked so hard to be an informed and educated leader,”

In the same collapsed hotel, rescuers also found the bodies of three school volleyball players from Northern Cyprus.

In March, the EU is expected to hold a conference in Brussels to mobilize funds from the international community to support Turkish and Syrian earthquake victims. In total, a record 1,485 rescuers and 100 search dogs were mobilized in Türkiye under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, one of its largest search and rescue operations. 21 21 EU Member States plus Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia provided rescue and medical teams.

Commissioner Janez Lenarcic, the crisis coordinator for the EU response, arrived in Gaziantep on Thursday. The EU also sent temporary shelters, tents, and beds to Türkiye.

Meanwhile, as criticism of the speed of rescue efforts has increased, Twitter was curtailed in Türkiye on Wednesday, and many users have reported that they need to connect through a virtual private network. Twitter was a powerful means of communication during the rescue effort, as many people under the rubble shared their locations with their families and authorities by posting tweets.

Electricity has returned to the streets and avenues of the earthquake-affected regions, but the main underground circuits are still being repaired.

“On the first day, bad weather conditions prevented us from monitoring the region with drones and planes. Now we are also supporting our rescue efforts with an air component,” Vice President Fuat Oktay said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Several celebrities, including well-known singer Tarkan and actor Kivanc Tatlitug, have donated large sums of money to humanitarian efforts.

The World Health Organization estimates that the final death toll could be over 20,000, the highest number recorded since the 1999 Türkiye earthquake.





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