1675931421 origin 1

Rescuers in Syria and Turkey race to find earthquake survivors as death toll nears 8,000

origin 1Rescuers and medics rescue a woman from the rubble of a collapsed building in Elbistan, Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey on Tuesday, February 7, 2023. ©Ismsail Coskun/AP Photo

Rescuers in southern Turkey and northern Syria continued their efforts during the early hours of Wednesday morning pulling survivors from the wreck in freezing temperatures.

The death toll after Monday’s earthquakes continues to rise as more victims were found under rubble during the night.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 affected provinces of the country, aimed at allowing relief workers and financial aid to reach the affected areas.

“I would like to remember [the general public] that no one uses the roads leading in and within the seismic zone unless it is mandatory, and that no phone calls are made unless urgently needed”.

A winter storm has compounded the misery by rendering many roads, some of which were damaged by the earthquake, nearly impassable, resulting in traffic jams stretching for miles in some regions.

Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake and powerful aftershocks cut a swath of destruction stretching hundreds of kilometers across southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria.

“Now it’s a race against time,” said World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We have activated WHO’s network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care to the injured and most vulnerable,” he added.

Turkey and Syria: How to get aid to earthquake victims as fast as possible
Watch: Survivors pulled from rubble after devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria

In Syria, the civil defense group known as the White Helmets, more used to searching bombed-out buildings, is very scarce.

Meanwhile, the logistics and policy of helping Syria, especially vulnerable areas in the northwest, are far more complicated.

The few available excavators are transported from one city to another to answer the countless calls for help.

Yet people in some of the hardest-hit areas said they felt left on their own.

But some extraordinary survival stories have emerged, including a newborn baby pulled alive from rubble in Syria, still tied by the umbilical cord to its mother who died in Monday’s earthquake.

“We heard a voice while we were digging,” said Khalil al-Suwadi, a relative. “We cleaned up the dust and found the baby with the umbilical cord [intact] so we cut it out and my cousin took her to the hospital.”

The newborn is the sole survivor of her family, the rest of whom were killed in the rebel-held town of Jindayris.