Death toll in Turkey, Syria nears 5,000 as rescuers race to find survivors

Search and rescue personnel were racing against time early Tuesday to find survivors trapped under rubble in Syria and Turkey. Photo courtesy of Syria Civil Defense

Feb. 7 (UPI) — The death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck southern Turkey 24 hours earlier continued to rise on Tuesday as rescuers frantically scoured thousands of buildings reduced to rubble for survivors as time was running out.

Nearly 5,000 deaths had been reported early Tuesday following the 7.8-magnitude temblor that hit the Pazarcik district in Kahramanmar province, inflicting severe damage throughout 10 Turkish provinces and in neighboring northwestern Syria.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency said the death toll rose overnight to 3,381, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Figures from Syria are hampered by the ongoing civil war, but the government of President Bashar al-Assad reported 812 deaths in areas it controls, state-run SANA news reported.

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The humanitarian organization Syria Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets, tallied more than 790 additional deaths.

However, the death toll is expected to continue to rise by the thousands as rescuers search for survivors and find bodies in the more than 5,600 buildings Turkish officials said were destroyed in the country. The White Helmets said Monday that there were more than 210 collapsed buildings in its territory alone.

“Time is running out,” the White Helmets said on its official Twitter account early Tuesday. “Hundreds still trapped under the rubble. Every second could mean saving a life.

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“We appeal to all humanitarian organizations and international bodies to provide material support and assistance to organizations responding to this disaster.”

In Turkey, the AFAD said 13,740 search and rescue personnel along with a cadre of vehicles and equipment has been deployed to affected regions.


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