Death Toll Turkey, Syria Quake In Tens of Thousands Amid Unrest
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ISTANBUL (Worthy News) – The death toll of last Monday’s massive earthquakes in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria approached at least 35,000 with tens of thousands unaccounted for, but rescue work was hampered by unrest in Turkey’s southern region, officials and relief groups said.
The United Nations emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths said the death toll was expected to surpass 56,000 as many victims remained beneath the rubble.
“I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble, but I’m sure it will double or more,” Griffiths said. “That’s terrifying. This is nature striking back in a really harsh way.”
It came as the United Nations also said 5.3 million people in Syria might have been left homeless by Monday’s devastating 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude quakes.
The hope of finding many more survivors was fading despite some miraculous rescues. In the Turkish province of Hatay, for example, six members of the same family were rescued after spending 101 hours buried under a mountain of rubble.
Not far away, rescue crews also plucked a 10-day-old boy and his mother from the ruins of a crumpled building, witnesses said.
Yet reaching other survivors remained challenging: The Austrian army said clashes between unidentified groups in Turkey’s Hatay province forced dozens of personnel from the Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit to seek shelter in a base camp with other international groups.
Those incidents prompted embattled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to warn that he would use emergency powers to punish anyone breaking the law.
However, “There is increasing aggression between factions in Turkey,” Austrian Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Kugelweis said in published remarks. “The chances of saving a life bears no reasonable relation to the safety risk.”
Kugelweis warned that there “is increasing aggression between factions in Turkey.”
Rescue workers said that shots were fired and warned of a worsening security situation without enough food and water supplies in the impoverished region.
The German branch of the search and rescue group ISAR and Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (TSW) also suspended operations, citing security concerns.
However, soon after, Turkey’s defense ministry said the Turkish army stepped in to offer protection, allowing the rescue operations to resume.
“Am I really alive?” heard rescue workers during an emotional rescue of two trapped sisters. It was the latest remarkable escape between massive death and destruction in Turkey and neighboring Syria.
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