RAMI AL SAYED/AFP via Getty Images
ISTANBUL — Rescuers continued their search across Turkey and Syria on Thursday for survivors of this week’s earthquake and massive aftershocks as the window for finding living people began to close.
Rescue teams braved freezing temperatures to pull bodies from the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings in southern Turkey and northern Syria. The 72-hour mark since Monday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake has now passed, a critical window of time that experts say is when most disaster survivors are found.
More than three days after the earthquake and aftershocks hit both countries, the death toll has passed 16,000, according to the Associated Press. The Turkish government said that in addition to nearly 13,000 people killed, more than 60,000 were injured. In Syria, over 3,100 people have been killed and over 5,000 injured.
The 7.8-magnitude quake, which struck southern Turkey and collapsed buildings in that country and Syria, is the world’s deadliest earthquake event in more than a decade . An earthquake in Japan in 2011 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 19,000 people.
An estimated 13.5 million people in Turkey are affected by the quake and millions more in Syria.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kahramanmaras, a town near the epicenter of the quake, telling survivors that “we are facing a great catastrophe”. The public is growing increasingly angry at the slow relief response, and Erodgan has acknowledged that his government failed in its duties immediately after the quake. The president cited winter weather conditions and destroyed infrastructure, including airport runways, as complicating factors.
Erdogan and aid workers said the magnitude of the quake was so large that it was difficult to reach everyone everywhere. Erdogan said no one would be “left on the streets”.
The rise in numbers reflects the grim task facing officials and survivors in both countries:
- Turkey has reported that more than 380,000 people are displaced.
- Syria reported that 298,000 of its citizens are displaced, but those numbers were in government-controlled areas of the country. Opposition-controlled areas have yet to report this number.
- Turkey’s emergency management agency said it had set up at least 92,000 tents and dispatched more than 5,000 vehicles to the area.
- There are 98,000 Turkish and international rescuers dispatched to the region.
- The earthquake’s destruction spread along a 200-mile-long strip of mountains.
- An estimated 13.5 million people in Turkey are affected by the quake and millions more in Syria.
The Istanbul stock exchange closed until February 15 after early trading showed rapid declines, triggering a circuit breaker when the declines reached 7%. The Turkish economy was already reeling from spiraling inflation.
Syria blamed Western sanctions for aid not reaching northern Syria, but the US government said the sanctions had no impact on humanitarian aid.