Earthquake Deaths in Turkey, Syria Pass 11,000 as Rescue Efforts Continue

    08 February 2023

    Monday's powerful 7.8 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has killed more than 11,000 people, officials say. Rescue teams from more than 20 countries continue to search for both survivors and those killed.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited a "tent city" in Kahramanmaras, where people forced from their homes are living. He admitted the Turkish government's response to the disaster at first had some problems. However, he promised that no one would "be left in the streets."

    Many people in both countries are still waiting for help. This includes areas isolated by Syria's ongoing civil war.

    A man sits at his destroyed house in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
    A man sits at his destroyed house in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

    With thousands of collapsed buildings, it is not clear how many people might still be trapped under the rubble. Road closures and other damage have made it difficult for rescue teams to reach all the areas that need help. Cold weather is also making the situation more difficult for both victims and rescue teams.

    In the Turkish city of Malatya, former reporter Ozal Pikal helped with the rescue efforts. He said he believed at least some of the victims froze to death as temperatures fell to minus 6 degrees Celsius. He added, "Our hands cannot pick up anything because of the cold. Work machines are needed."

    Many survivors in Turkey have had to sleep in cars, outside, or in government shelters.

    "We don't have a tent, we don't have a heating stove, we don't have anything. Our children are in bad shape. We are all getting wet under the rain," said 27-year-old Aysan Kurt. "We did not die from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold."

    Polish rescuers told reporters with Poland's TVN24 that low temperatures were delaying rescue efforts. However, two firefighters said the fact that most people were in bed under warm covers when the earthquake struck could help their chances of survival.

    Stories of rescues continued to provide hope that some people still trapped might be found alive. A crying newborn baby still connected by the umbilical cord to her mother, who was killed, was rescued Monday in Syria. In Turkey's Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled a 3-year-old boy from the rubble.

    Erdogan said Turkey's death toll passed 9,000. The Syrian Health Ministry said the death toll in government-held areas is more than 1,200. In addition, at least 1,400 people have died in the rebel-held northwest. That number comes from the volunteer rescue group known as the White Helmets.

    Syrian officials said the bodies of more than 100 Syrians who died during the earthquake in Turkey were brought back home for burial. Mazen Alloush, an official on the Syrian side of the border, said 20 more bodies were on their way, adding that all of them were Syrian refugees who fled the civil war.

    The Syrian civil war has made rescue efforts in that country difficult. Rebel-controlled areas near the Turkish border are isolated and surrounded by Russian-backed military forces. Syria is also under Western sanctions because of the war.

    However, the European Union (EU) said Wednesday that Syria had finally asked for help for the victims of the earthquake. The EU also said its sanctions against the government would not affect the aid it gives to Syria.

    I'm Andrew Smith.

    Mehmet Guzel, Ghaith AlSayed and Suzan Fraser wrote this story for The Associated Press. Andrew Smith adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    response -n. an action taken or answer given following an event or question

    isolated -adj. characterized as being difficult to reach and separated from other areas and people

    rubble -n. piles of material and debris from the collapse of buildings or other structures

    toll -n. the number of victims of accidents, natural disasters, diseases, and the like

    sanctions -n. actions taken by one or more countries against another to show disapproval by restricting trade and other aspects of the economy