Even though a handful of victims were still being pulled from buildings that collapsed during the massive earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria two weeks ago, Turkish officials said search and rescue operations will largely end Sunday night. The announcement came as the death toll topped 46,000.
Amid the tragic accounts of victims like Ghanaian soccer star Christian Atsu, whose body was found under the rubble in the Hatay province, there were bittersweet discoveries, like finding the sad video made by a 17-year-old boy who thought he would die under the rubble.
Taha Erdem thought he might not make it. Trapped alone under a tangled mass of concrete and twisted steel, Erdem took out his smartphone and recorded a final goodbye. Happily, however, he was among the first to be rescued.
Rescuers from Kyrgyzstan also managed to pull three members of a Syrian family, including a child, alive from the wreckage of a building in Antakya city in southern Turkey 12 days after the quake.
“We heard shouts when we were digging today an hour ago. When we find people who are alive, we are always happy,” rescuer Atay Osmanov told Reuters.
The parents survived, but the child died later of dehydration. The couple’s two other children died before the aide reached them.
The massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked southeast Turkey and Syria early on Feb. 5, leveling more than 345,000 apartments in Turkey as people slept in their beds.
Turkish officials have vowed to investigate those responsible for the collapse of buildings and have ordered the detention of more than 100 suspects, including developers.
Survivors are furious over what they claim were corrupt building practices that led to the collapse of so much infrastructure.
Case in point: the Ronesans Rezidans (Renaissance Residence), which keeled over in Antakya, killing hundreds.
“It was said to be earthquake-safe, but you can see the result,” said Hamza Alpaslan, 47, whose brother had lived in the complex. “It’s in horrible condition. There is neither cement nor proper iron in it. It’s a real hell.”
Rescuers continue to be frustrated by difficulties in reaching the areas in Syria hard-hit by the quake.
World Food Program director David Beasley said that while the governments of Syria and Turkey have cooperated, rescuers are having a hard time getting access to devastated areas in northwest Syria.
“The problems we are running into [are with] the cross-line operations into northwest Syria where the northwestern Syrian authorities are not giving us the access we need,” said Beasley.
Northwestern Syria is controlled by insurgents at war with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad which has hampered efforts to get aid to people.
Health officials are worried about the spread of infection given the collapse of tens of thousands of buildings and aid organizations said survivors will need help for months in rebuilding their lives.
Neither Turkey nor Syria has said how many people are still missing.
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