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After earthquake in Turkey and Syria, despair and glimmers of hope


Rescue teams fought a race against time Tuesday as they scrambled to reach people who remain trapped under rubble or injured without help in the areas of southern Turkey and northern Syria hit hardest by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated the region.

Low winter temperatures made rescue work even more pressing, amid fear that some people could freeze to death before they could be saved. Damage to roads, power grids and other infrastructure has hindered aid efforts

With more than 6,000 deaths recorded, and more than 30,000 injured, figures set to continue to rise, Monday’s quake is already one of the deadliest of the 21st century. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a state of emergency across 10 regions that would last 3 months.

In the Turkish town of Nurdagi, only a few dozen miles south of the epicenter, workers said hopes of finding more survivors were dwindling. Dozens of bodies waited outside a hospital.

The full toll in some areas, especially remote towns and parts of rebel-held northern Syria with crumbling infrastructure, remains hard to gauge. Speaking to the World Health Organization’s executive board on Tuesday, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global health agency was “especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information.”

Glimmers of hope punctuated the despair. In a video shared by the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, an aid group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria, two children are pulled from beneath rubble in the town of Atarib.

Christian Atsu, a former Premier League soccer player who was living in Turkey, was pulled from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Hatay province. His club, Hatayspor, said he was injured but alive. The team’s sporting director was still missing.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that at a news conference on early Tuesday, more than 8,000 people had been been rescued in Turkey alone. But the challenges have only begun, as authorities work to treat the wounded and find shelter for the displaced. In some parts of the country, people with nowhere to stay spent the night outdoors huddled around fires.

The scale of the task for rescuers remains enormous. The area that saw the most severe tremors runs hundreds of square miles; it includes not only well-populated towns and cities but also war-torn and isolated parts of northern Syria devastated by almost a dozen years of fighting.

Governments and organizations across the world have offered aid. More than 3,000 search and rescue personnel had arrived in Turkey from 14 countries, Oktay said at the news conference on Tuesday.

Despite its international isolation following the brutality of its civil war, the Syrian government has received humanitarian aid too. Even countries in the region opposed to the government of Bashar al-Assad have provided help. The United States and other Western countries have said they would support nongovernmental aid groups in Syria.

Damaged roads and other destruction from the earthquake have forced the United Nations to halt deliveries from Turkey into northwestern Syria, a spokeswoman told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

“We are still in the first 36 hours of one of the largest earthquakes to hit the region this century,” said Tanya Evans, Syria Country Director for the International Rescue Committee. “Multiple earthquakes and aftershocks yesterday and today have damaged roads, border crossings, and critical infrastructure, severely hampering aid efforts.”

Further geological activity remains a threat. Alexandra Hatem, a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey, said the 7.8-magnitude earthquake ruptured a large portion of the East Anatolian fault, which saw a 6.7 in 2020.

“There have been numerous damaging earthquakes around this area, and we are trying to determine whether one of these would lead to a larger earthquake,” she said.

Zeynep Karatas, Victoria Bisset, Kelsey Ables, Ellen Francis, Niha Masih, Cindy Boren and Ben Brasch contributed reporting.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.