Tuesday saw the declaration of an emergency by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in ten provinces hit by two earthquakes that left more than 5,200 people dead and a path of devastation across a large stretch of southern Turkey and neighboring Syria.
Rescuers were still struggling to pull survivors from the wreckage of fallen buildings a day after the earthquakes struck as they labored in difficult circumstances.
The number of fatalities appeared to be significantly on the rise as the disaster’s scope became more and more clear.
It was thought that hundreds of youngsters may have been slaughtered, according to a UN official.
Furthermore, citizens of various affected Turkish cities expressed their rage and hopelessness at what they perceived as the government’s tardy and insufficient reaction to the biggest earthquake to strike Turkey since 1999. “There is not even a single person here. We are under the snow, without a home, without anything,” said Murat Alinak, whose home in Malatya had collapsed and whose relatives are missing. “What shall I do, where can I go?”
Hospitals, schools, and apartment complexes were among the hundreds of structures that were destroyed by Monday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake and its follow-up, which struck hours later and was nearly as strong.
In Turkish and northern Syrian cities, tens of thousands of civilians suffered injuries or lost their homes.
Rescue and relief operations have been impeded by the winter cold, which has worsened the situation for those who are homeless.
There were gasoline and energy shortages in several locations.
Aid workers expressed particular worry about the situation in Syria, which is already experiencing a humanitarian crisis following a nearly 12-year civil war.
Erdogan proclaimed a three-month state of emergency in the ten affected Turkish regions on Tuesday, designating them as a disaster zone. This will enable the administration to implement new laws without consulting parliament and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.
According to Erdogan, who is up for re-election in three months, the government would offer hotels in Antalya, a popular tourist destination, to temporarily shelter anyone affected by the earthquakes.
Erdogan reported that 3,549 people had died in Turkey.
According to the government and a rescue organization operating in the northwest of the nation, which is controlled by insurgents, at least 1,712 people have died in Syria.
Around 13.5 million people, according to Turkish officials, were impacted in a region that stretched 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east, and 300 kilometers from Malatya in the north to Hatay.
Syrian authorities have reported deaths as far south as Hama, some 250 km (155 miles) from the epicentre.
“It’s now a race against time,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. “Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes.”
Rescue workers worked around the area day and night while families waited in agony beside piles of wreckage, clinging to the hope that friends, family members, and neighbors may be discovered alive.
Rescue personnel were few in Antakya, the provincial seat of Hatay, which borders Syria, so locals had to pick their own way through the rubble.
Helmets, hammers, iron rods, and rope were requested repeatedly.
32 hours after the earthquake, a 54-year-old lady called Gulumser was rescued alive from an eight-story building.
Then another woman yelled to the rescuers: “My father was just behind that room she was in. Please save him.”
The workers explained they could not reach the room from the front and needed an excavator to remove the wall first.
Turkish authorities say more than 12,000 search and rescue personnel are working in the affected areas, along with 9,000 troops. Some 70 countries and sending personnel, equipment and aid.
But the sheer scale of the disaster is daunting.
“The area is enormous. I haven’t seen anything like this before,” stated Johannes Gust, a firefighter and rescuer from Germany, as he loaded supplies into a truck at the airport in Adana, Turkey.
20,426 people were injured and 5,775 structures were demolished, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).