Gaziantep, Turkey: The search for survivors of the earthquake that toppled thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria reached a critical stretch on Thursday, with rescue teams from two dozen countries helping locals sift through the rubble and experts warning that the realistic window to find any in the frigid temperatures was quickly closing.
The president of Turkey on Wednesday acknowledged “shortcomings” in his country’s response to the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade as hope dwindled that more survivors would emerge from the rubble of thousands of toppled buildings.
With the confirmed death toll approaching 19,000, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the especially hard-hit Hatay province, where more than 3,300 people died and entire neighborhoods were destroyed. Residents there have criticized the government’s efforts, saying rescuers were slow to arrive.
Former Chelsea and Newcastle forward Christian Atsu was rescued from the ruins of a collapsed building in the southern Turkey city of Antakya, where his current team, Hatayspor, is based, the Ghana Football Association tweeted Tuesday.
Despite the recent tensions with Turkey, India has sent search and rescue teams including three NDRF teams, dog squads, and essential search and medical equipment for the relief efforts in six flights under Operation Dost.
Turkey has called India a “dost” for its generosity in providing funds to the country after the earthquake caused massive destruction. Turkey’s Ambassador to India Firat Sunel has called ‘Operation Dost’ a “very important operation” which demonstrates friendship between the two nations.
Meanwhile, the government of Bashar Assad in Damascus is still a pariah in much of the international community, sanctioned by the U.S. and European countries, which are reluctant to route aid directly through the government. American and EU officials have made clear the quake won’t change that.
Emergency workers say delays could cost lives, as local rescue crews struggle to pull families and children from the rubble and find housing for survivors amid brutal winter weather.
In Turkey, the death toll from the magnitude 7.8 quake that struck Monday neared 19,000, making it the deadliest since a magnitude 9.0 quake off the coast of Japan in March 2011 triggered a tsunami, killing nearly 20,000. Nearly all of Turkey is very seismically active so the country is no stranger to devastating earthquakes — a 7.4 magnitude temblor that struck near Istanbul in 1999 killed an estimated 18,000 people.
With the damage from Monday’s quake so extensive and spread so widely, experts said the window for survival was quickly closing, though people can survive for up to a week or more, depending on the circumstances.
In the town of Jinderis in northwestern Syria, where 12 years of conflict has complicated rescue efforts, residents digging through a collapsed building Monday afternoon discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried in the rubble. The girl’s mother, father and four siblings didn’t survive. Rescuers pulled another little girl from the wreckage of a collapsed building in the same town that evening.