Daniel Thorpe

Time is running out for Turkey’s earthquake victims

Rescue workers in Adana, Turkey (Credit: Daniel Thorpe)

The confirmed death toll from the two huge earthquakes which struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday has now passed 9,000. Aid officials fear the final toll could reach 20,000. Rescuers continue to work around the clock to save people, but many locals are angry over the inadequate response from the Turkish authorities.

Antakya is the capital of the Hatay province, wedged between Syria in the east and the Mediterranean in the west. The earthquake completely devastated the city, flattening whole neighbourhoods. Around half of the upper-end apartment buildings along the city’s main Atatürk Boulevard have collapsed. Forty-eight hours after the first quake, residents are still cut off from electricity and gas. Those who survived stand in circles around fires outside in the streets in fear of another quake. Smaller aftershocks can still be felt.

Thousands of rescuers are working tirelessly around the clock, cutting through concrete panels and rebars

‘We could hear an old lady’s cries from a building,’ said Ali, a volunteer from the Mersin province. ‘I ran and told the people from the Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD). They came to have a look but said it’s too dangerous to work there. And just like that, they left her there. What is danger when it’s about human life?’

Many other locals also expressed frustration with the speed and scale of the rescue efforts and some of the emergency agencies. Meanwhile, thousands of rescuers are working tirelessly around the clock, cutting through concrete panels and rebars, climbing under half-collapsed buildings with the hope of finding survivors.

‘In the morning there were hardly any rescuers around’ said Esra, standing by a group of collapsed buildings. ‘We could hear cries for help from about fifteen different places in this street. I went around begging the emergency services with diggers to come and help.

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