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As earthquake death toll surpasses 25,000 in Turkey and Syria, survivors are still being rescued

origin 1Ayse, a six-year-old Syrian girl who survived under a destroyed building, is carried on a stretcher by rescue teams in Kahramanmaras, Turkey on Saturday, February 11 © (AP Photo/Konstantinos Zilos)

The death toll from Monday’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria passed the 25,000 mark.

Rescuers are still finding people alive five days later, but mass graves are also being prepared, while temporary field hospitals, some run by international aid groups and military response teams, are treating some of the injured.

In Turkey, a father and his three-year-old daughter were pulled from rubble in Islahiye, Gaziantep province after surviving 132 hours.

Not everything ended so well, though. Rescuers reached a 13-year-old girl inside the rubble of a collapsed building in Hatay province early Saturday morning and intubated her. But she died before medical teams could amputate a limb and free her from the rubble, reported the Hurriyet newspaper.

origin 1Hong Kong rescuers search for earthquake survivors in Turkey, February 11, 2023Hussein Malla/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Indian Army Field Hospital

As aid continued to arrive, a group of 99 Indian Army Medical Aid Team members began treating the wounded at a temporary field hospital in the southern city of Iskenderun where a main hospital was demolished.

One man, Sukru Canbulat, was taken to hospital in a wheelchair, his left leg badly injured with deep bruises, contusions and lacerations.

Wringing in pain, he said he was rescued from his collapsed apartment building in the nearby city of Antakya just hours after Monday’s quake. But after receiving basic first aid, he was released without receiving adequate treatment for his injuries.

He said: “I buried (everyone I lost), then I came here. My daughter died, my brother died, my aunt and her daughter died, and her wife’s son who was eight and a half months pregnant.”

Makeshift cemetery

A large makeshift cemetery was under construction on Saturday on the outskirts of Antakya. Backhoe loaders and bulldozers dug graves in the field at the northeastern edge of the city as trucks and ambulances loaded with black body bags arrived steadily. Soldiers directing traffic on the adjacent busy road warned motorists not to take photographs.

The hundreds of graves, spaced no more than a meter apart, were marked with simple wooden planks driven vertically into the ground.

An aide to Turkey’s religious affairs ministry, who declined to be identified due to an order not to share information with the media, said some 800 bodies were taken to the cemetery on Friday, the first day of operations. By noon on Saturday, he said, as many as 2,000 had been buried.

“The people who are coming out of the rubble now, it’s a miracle they survive. Most of the people who come out now are dead and come here,” he said she.

Temperatures have remained below freezing across the vast region and many people are without shelter. The Turkish government has distributed millions of hot meals, as well as tents and blankets.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visiting earthquake-stricken Diyarbakir, said universities would switch to distance education until the summer to free up state dormitories for homeless survivors.

In the city of Kahramanmaras, where a stadium has been turned into a makeshift camp, survivors walked between hundreds of tents, queued for hot meals and huddled around fires.

In Antakya, an international charity that helps Syrian refugees in Turkey has sheltered dozens of people in the grounds of an intact building on the edge of the city.

“The problem is that there is not a single habitable house in Antakya, so the only refuge is the road,” said Ahmed Abou el-Shaar, founder of the Molham charity.

The disaster has exacerbated suffering in a region plagued by the 12-year Syrian civil war that has displaced millions of people inside the country and left them dependent on aid. The fighting has sent millions more to seek refuge in Turkey.

The conflict has isolated many areas of Syria and complicated aid efforts. The United Nations refugee agency has estimated that as many as 5.3 million people have been left homeless in Syria.

Syrian state TV said Assad and his wife Asma visited Duha Nurallah, 60, and her son Ibrahim Zakariya, 22, who had been pulled from the rubble the night before in the nearby coastal town of Jableh on Saturday morning.

World Health Organization

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, arrived in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, carrying 35 tons of medical equipment, state news agency SANA reported. He said another plane carrying another 30 tons of medical equipment will arrive in the next few days.

The opposition Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, said on Saturday that “it is almost impossible to find people alive”.

The death toll in Syria’s rebel-controlled northwestern region has reached 2,166 people, many of them women and children. The total number of deaths in Syria was 3,533, while in Turkey, officials counted 21,043 dead as of Saturday.