With more than 6,000 dead, and more than 30,000 injured, the toll continues to rise, with Monday’s earthquake already one of the deadliest of the 21st century. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a state of emergency in 10 regions that will last for 3 months.
In the Turkish town of Nurgi, just a few dozen miles south of the epicenter, workers said hopes of finding more survivors were fading. Dozens of bodies were standing outside the hospital.
It is difficult to assess the full toll of damaged infrastructure in some areas, particularly remote towns and parts of rebel-held northern Syria. Speaking to the World Health Organization’s executive board on Tuesday, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the World Health Organization was “particularly concerned about areas where we do not yet have information.”
A ray of hope overcame despair. In a video shared by the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, an aid group working in rebel-held areas of Syria, two children are pulled from the rubble in the town of Atreeb.
Christian Atso, a former Premier League soccer player based in Turkey, was pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building in Hatay province. His club, Hatayspor, said he was injured but alive. The team’s sports director was still missing.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Okte said in a news conference on Tuesday morning that more than 8,000 people have been rescued in Turkey alone. But the challenges have only just begun, as authorities work to treat the injured and find shelter for the displaced. In some parts of the country, where there is no place to stay, people spend the night outside, huddled around a fire.
The scale of work for rescuers is huge. The area that saw the strongest tremors covers hundreds of square miles. This includes not only well-populated towns and cities, but also war-torn and isolated parts of northern Syria that have been devastated by nearly a dozen years of fighting.
Governments and organizations around the world have offered assistance. Okte said in a news conference on Tuesday that more than 3,000 search and rescue personnel from 14 countries have arrived in Turkey.
Despite international isolation following the brutality of its civil war, the Syrian government has also received humanitarian aid. Even countries opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the region have provided support. The US and other Western countries have said they will support non-governmental aid groups in Syria.
Earthquake-damaged roads and other destruction have forced the United Nations to halt shipments from Turkey to northwestern Syria, a spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We are still in the first 36 hours of one of the biggest earthquakes of this century,” said Tanya Evans, Syria country director for the International Rescue Committee. “Several earthquakes and aftershocks yesterday and today have damaged roads, border crossings and critical infrastructure, severely hampering relief efforts.”
Further geological activity remains a threat. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake ruptured a large part of the eastern Anatolian fault, with a magnitude of 6.7 in 2020, said Alexandra Haytam, a researcher with the US Geological Survey.
“There have been a number of damaging earthquakes around the area, and we’re trying to determine if one of them will trigger a major earthquake,” he said.
Zeynep Karatas, Victoria Bisset, Kelsey Abels, Ellen Francis, Neha Masih, Cindy Boren and Ben Brash contributed reporting.
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