The two quakes that struck a huge area of southeastern Turkey on Monday are the most devastating since 1939, after the death toll far exceeded that of the 1999 quakes near Istanbul that killed some 18,000 people.
Around 13 million people lived in the ten affected provinces – larger than a country like Portugal – and, according to official data, one million have lost their homes, either because they have collapsed or become uninhabitable.
A large number of rescuers, health personnel and the Army continue to work in the region – more than 150,000 troops in total – but the chances of finding more survivors are receding almost a week after the tremors.
Still, people continue to be found alive under the rubble. The latest successful rescue was in Hatay early on Sunday, when a 32-year-old teacher was freed from the rubble of an eight-story building in which she spent 142 hours trapped. The young survivor’s first request to the teams that saved her was hot tea, the Hurriyet daily reported.
Another rescue that gave rescue teams encouragement was that of a seven-month-old baby who was buried for 140 hours under the rubble of a six-story building in Antioch, the capital of Hatay. Some of the rescuers cried as they reached the baby and made sure it was alive.
As of Saturday night, 111,500 people had left the quake region via government evacuation centers and another 100,000 via airline flights. An unknown number have also left the affected area by their own means.
Problems with basic services
In many localities, problems continue with basic services, with interruptions to water and electricity and with limited medical assistance. There is also a shortage of certain hygiene products and medicines.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Saturday that all universities will switch to distance learning and student residences will be handed over to earthquake victims, pledging to rebuild all destroyed houses within a year.
Turkish security forces have arrested at least 48 people accused of looting damaged buildings or trying to defraud victims in the region, the Anadolu news agency reported.
Two of the detainees allegedly posed as aid workers and tried to rob six truckloads of food for earthquake victims in the southern province of Hatay.
In Syria, the dead rise to 3,553
The count in Syria, for its part, has barely changed compared to the figure offered the day before by both the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the White Helmets rescue group, which operates in opposition areas in the northwest of the Arab country. The death toll in the Arab country is 3,553, 2,166 of whom have been in rebel areas.
The search for survivors in Syrian opposition areas is over
For its part, in Syria the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than five million people have been affected throughout the country by the earthquakes, while more than 300,000 “have been left homeless” in just two of the provinces hit by tremors.
In the opposition areas of northwest Syria, the White Helmets declared an end to search operations for survivors on Saturday, after not finding anyone alive under the rubble since Thursday.
In those areas, a convoy with humanitarian aid from the United Nations arrived this Saturday through a border crossing with Turkey, in the third shipment made since the earthquake on Monday and the first with specific supplies for those affected by the quake.
The first UN humanitarian aid convoy arrived in northwest Syria last Thursday, almost four days after the earthquakes that devastated the region.
First UN aid arrives in Syrian rebel stronghold
A convoy with humanitarian aid from the United Nations arrived on Saturday in the opposition areas of northwestern Syria through a border crossing with Turkey, in the third shipment made since the earthquake on Monday and the first with specific supplies for those affected by the quake. .
The Bab al Hawa crossing, which links the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib with Turkey, received about twenty UN trucks this afternoon, six of them with medical supplies and the rest loaded with hygiene kits, mattresses and other products. basic, a person in charge of the crossing informed EFE.
This is the third United Nations shipment to enter Bab al Hawa since the initial earthquake registered early Monday, after convoys arrived in the last two days mainly with tents, mats, warm clothing and other belongings. non food
However, this Saturday’s shipment is the first that the rebel areas receive with specific assistance for earthquakes, since the previous two contained generic supplies that were already planned to be transported before the tragedy and whose arrival was delayed by the earthquake.
Among the survivors, the situation is very complicated: one million people have been left homeless -according to official data- in a large area of southeastern Turkey that covers ten provinces and is larger than the area of a country like Portugal.
The Salesian missionaries of Syria ask for help to help the victims
The Salesian missionaries of the city of Aleppo, in Syria, ask for help to help the thousands of people affected by the earthquake, to whom international aid arrives in drops due to the war and international sanctions.
“After twelve years of war, the explosion in the port of Beirut, the coronavirus… Syria is tired and weak and this coup has left many people in a very critical situation”, explains the superior of the Salesians in the Middle East from Aleppo. , the Venezuelan priest Alejandro León, in a video released by the organization.
León directs the Don Bosco center, run by the Salesian missionaries in Aleppo, until now, which was a care center for children and young people of school age, and overnight it has become a reception and help center for hundreds of earthquake victims.
According to León, since Monday morning, when the earthquakes began, hundreds of people came to the center to ask for shelter and help, and the five Don Bosco missionaries and their volunteers were ready to welcome them and give them shelter.
More than 500 people whose houses had been destroyed or seriously affected settled as best they could in the missionary center, which welcomed them despite the lack of means.
“It breaks my heart to see how people lie down on a chair or on a table to sleep, everything we had at our disposal, blankets, mats, chairs, we already gave it, that’s why all help is important,” he says.
“In the midst of the cold, the rain, the power outages and the lack of fuel, thousands of people have been left homeless and hundreds are still under the rubble. Our obligation is to be by their side and provide the help that is in our hands, which right now is not much,” says León.
For this reason, it appeals to the generosity of the rest of the world so that they make donations “big or small; all help is important”.
“We have suffered from the war for many years and the explosion two and a half years ago in the port of Beirut. Everything affects the economy and the population. And now the earthquakes arrive. Everything is very complicated, but we do not give up and the Syrian people will continue to be united and move forward, ”he adds.
A first Salesian emergency project intends to help 1,200 people over the next month with accommodation, meals, warm clothing, meals three times a day, first aid, medical check-ups, psychosocial help and the repair of minor damage caused by the earthquake.
From Madrid, the Salesians explain that the most “safe, transparent and direct” way is to make a donation through their bank accounts and that the missionaries will be in charge of buying what is necessary in Aleppo itself or in Damascus.
It is a question, they comment, of “caring for the greatest number of people possible, in order to guarantee humanitarian aid to families, children and the elderly who no longer have a home and do not know where to go”.
“This coup has thrown many people into a very critical situation. We are going to continue with our doors and hearts open as far as we can, but we need help,” says León.