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Rescuers Pull Survivors from Rubble After Deadly Turkey Quakes

Auf einen Blick

  • Death toll is over 22,000 people
  • Rescue efforts have pulled several survivors from the rubble
  • Lax enforcement of modern construction codes has been a long-standing issue
  • 13.5 million people are homeless
  • Rescue efforts have shifted to recovery operations
  • A makeshift morgue has been set up to identify bodies

Die Details

Death Toll

More than 19,300 people have been confirmed killed in the disaster so far in Turkey, with more than 77,000 injured. More than 3,300 have been confirmed killed in Syria, bringing the total number of dead to more than 22,000.

Turkey’s minister of environment and urban planning said more than 12,000 buildings in Turkey have either collapsed or sustained serious damage.

Rescue Efforts

Rescuers in Turkey have been working around the clock to pull survivors from the rubble of buildings destroyed by two powerful earthquakes that have killed more than 22,000 people.

Rescuers pulled several earthquake survivors from the shattered remnants of buildings in Iskenderun, Turkey, including six relatives who huddled in a small pocket under the rubble, a teenager who drank his own urine to slake his thirst, and a 4-year-old boy who was offered a jelly bean to calm him down.

Rescuers pulled 17-year-old Adnan Muhammed Korkut from a basement in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the quake’s epicenter, after 94 hours trapped.

They also pulled 4-year-old Yagiz Komsu from the debris of his home in Adiyaman, 105 hours after the quake struck, and later managed to rescue his mother.

Rescuers identified nine people trapped inside the remains of a high-rise apartment block in Iskenderun and pulled out six of them, including a woman who waved at onlookers as she was being carried away.

They also pulled a married couple from the rubble in Iskenderun after spending 109 hours buried in a small crevice.

A German team said it worked for more than 50 hours to free a woman from a collapsed house in Kirikhan. In Kahramanmaras, two teenage sisters were saved, and video of the operation showed one emergency worker playing a pop song on his smartphone to distract them.

A trapped woman could be heard speaking to a team trying to dig her out in video broadcast by HaberTurk television. The disaster has left more than 13.5 million people homeless, and the Turkish government has distributed millions of hot meals, as well as tents and blankets.

The U.N. said the first earthquake-related aid convoy crossed from Turkey into northwestern Syria on Friday. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party declared a cease-fire in its separatist insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish militants in Syria has complicated the delivery of aid. Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife visited survivors at the Aleppo University Hospital.

The Syrian government announced that it will allow aid to reach all parts of the country, including areas held by insurgent groups in the northwest.

Building Codes

Experts have long warned about the lax enforcement of modern construction codes while allowing a real estate boom in earthquake-prone areas.

Many buildings in the areas pummelled by this week’s two massive earthquakes were built with inferior materials and methods, and often did not comply with government standards.

Addressing the problem would be expensive, unpopular and restrain a key engine of the country’s economic growth. Turkey has, on paper, construction codes that meet current earthquake-engineering standards, but they are too rarely enforced.

Turkey is crisscrossed by geological fault lines, making it vulnerable to earthquakes. Before Turkey’s last presidential and parliamentary election in 2018, the government unveiled a sweeping program to grant amnesty to companies and individuals responsible for certain violations of the country’s building codes.

The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization reported that more than half of all buildings in Turkey were not in compliance with current standards. The Chamber of Geological Engineers of Turkey published a series of reports raising red flags about existing buildings and new construction taking place in areas leveled by this week’s quakes.

Since 1999, when two powerful earthquakes hit northwest Turkey, near Istanbul, building codes have been tightened and a process of urban renewal has been underway.

Builders commonly use lower quality materials, hire fewer professionals to oversee projects and don’t adhere to various regulations as a way of keeping costs down.

The Turkish government’s so-called “construction peace” introduced before the 2018 general elections as a way to secure votes has, in effect, legalized unsafe buildings. Even new apartment buildings advertised as safe were ravaged by the quake.

A contractor who oversaw the construction of a 12-story building with 250 units that was completed in 2012 or 2013 was detained at Istanbul Airport before boarding a flight out of the country.

Another destroyed building in Antakya is the Guclu Bahce, which began construction in 2017 and opened with much fanfare in 2019 in a ceremony attended by Hatay’s mayor and other local officials.

In Malatya, the brand-new Asur apartments — billed as earthquake-proof in advertisements — sustained damage in the first quake.

Recovery Operations

Precious hours have turned to tense days across earthquake-hit southern Turkey as fewer people are pulled alive from the rubble.

Throngs of onlookers, mostly family members of people trapped inside, watched as heavy machines ripped at one building which had collapsed. Rescue workers have shifted from rescue to recovery operations.

It is estimated that around 80 people are still trapped within the collapsed structure. Scarcely a building remains in Nurdagi that has not suffered major damage.

Rescue workers used pick axes, jackhammers and shovels to carefully chip away at the hunks of concrete and twisted knots of rebar in hopes of discovering a sign of life.

In Kahramanmaras, the nearest city to the earthquake’s epicenter, workers on Thursday continued to search for survivors, but most of their discoveries were comprised of the dead. An indoor sports hall serves as a makeshift morgue to accommodate and identify bodies that were recovered from the debris.

At the entrance to the morgue, a man wept aloud over a black body bag that lie next to another in the bed of a small truck.

Erdal Usta, an assistant to the provincial prosecutor, said the bodies that are dug from the rubble are brought to the building and catalogued, and await identification by relatives who can then transport them to receive burial.

67-year-old Mehmet Nasir Dusan said he held no hope of reuniting with his five family members trapped beneath the debris.

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