Dramatic rescues as Turkiye, Syria quake toll nears 25,000


Rescuers pulled children and the elderly from the rubble Saturday as miraculous survival stories coincided with hasty mass burials five days after an earthquake devastated parts of Turkiye and Syria, leaving almost 25,000 dead.

Tens of thousands of local and international rescue workers are still scouring through flattened neighbourhoods despite freezing weather that has compounded the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.

However, amid the destruction and death, survivors continue to emerge. “Is the world there?” asked 70-year-old Menekse Tabak as she was pulled out from the rubble in the southern city of Kahramanmaras to applause and cries praising God, according to a video shared on state broadcaster TRT Haber.

In southern Hatay, a two-year-old girl was found alive 123 hours after the quake, reported the Hurriyet daily online, adding to numerous children saved long after the disaster, and a pregnant woman who was found on Friday.

Meanwhile, in southern Turkiye, families clutched each other in grief at a cotton field that has been transformed into a cemetery, with an endless stream of bodies arriving for swift burial.

Compounding the anguish, the United Nations has warned that at least 870,000 people urgently need of hot meals across Turkiye and Syria. In Syria alone, up to 5.3 million people may have been made homeless.

Turkiye’s disaster agency on Saturday said nearly 32,000 people from Turkish bodies are working on search and rescue efforts. In addition, there are 8,294 international rescuers.

However, 82 Austrian soldiers on Saturday suspended rescue operations in Hatay over a “worsening security situation,” an army spokesman told AFP.

“There have been clashes between groups,” he said, without giving details. The UN rights office had on Friday urged all actors in the affected area to allow humanitarian access.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is considered a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, announced a temporary halt in fighting to ease recovery work.

The Syrian government said it had approved the delivery of humanitarian assistance to quake-hit areas outside its control.

A decade of civil war and Syrian-Russian aerial bombardment had already destroyed hospitals and created electricity and water shortages.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to authorize the opening of new cross-border humanitarian aid points between Turkiye and Syria. The council will meet to discuss Syria, possibly early next week.—AFP