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‘Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we just wait’: Grief turns to anger in Antakya over the earthquake response

origin 1Search and rescue operations ongoing ©IHA via AP

For many families in southeast Turkey, the wait to find out if their loved ones are still alive is excruciating.

A week after two earthquakes hit Turkey, wreaking widespread devastation in it and neighboring Syria, thousands of rescue teams are still searching the rubble of former apartment buildings for signs of life.

Watch: Drone images of earthquake-ravaged Antakya

Umut Senoglu is a software developer in Antioch, Turkey. He told RockedBuzz via Euronews that many of his loved ones are still trapped under the rubble, including his sister, nephews and brother-in-law.

“Maybe 20 bodies were recovered yesterday,” he said, recounting the harrowing search and rescue operations in Antakya.

“Last successful rescue was two days ago. Since then, we’ve only recovered the dead. It’s hard… sometimes we cry. Sometimes we just wait.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria exceeds 33,000

The 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes on February 6 were the worst natural disaster to hit Turkey in nearly a century.

Subsequent death tolls in northern Syria and southeastern Turkey passed the 33,000 mark. That figure is expected to rise as search teams find more bodies.

Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, is among the most affected by the earthquakes. And bulldozers have prepared a large cemetery on the outskirts of the city. Hundreds of graves are now marked with simple wooden boards.

Without electricity, water or sanitation, those who survived are at greater risk, as a cholera epidemic is spreading rapidly and aftershocks are a constant problem, hampering relief efforts.

origin 1Images recovered from the rubble of a building destroyed in the earthquake are placed in the windshield of a car in Antakya.AP Photo

A chaotic response to disaster

After seven days of waiting, shock and disbelief are slowly turning to anger at what many describe as a chaotic response to the disaster.

“Private companies sent their cranes and excavators here. But when they arrived, they didn’t know what to do…they were just technical operators. They can use the cranes, but they are not experts in rescue operations,” said Umut.

In the chaos, family members begged the operators to go to specific buildings to rescue their loved ones.

Turkish President Erdogan acknowledges “deficiencies” in the government’s response to the earthquake

Rescue teams have been slowed down by the widespread damage, making it more difficult for them to respond quickly.

The country’s opposition has criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s response to the earthquake, claiming it failed to prepare his country for the inevitable disaster.

In response, the government says there was no way to prepare for a disaster of this magnitude.