Survivors leave earthquake zone in Turkey, focus turns to homeless

Survivors leave earthquake zone in Turkey, focus turns to homeless
A teddy bear is seen amid rubble from a destroyed building on February 13, 2023 in Nurdagi, Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and has killed more than 30,000 people. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

KAHRAMANMARAS/ANTAKYA, Turkey, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Survivors joined a mass exodus from earthquake-hit zones in Turkey on Tuesday, some leaving their homes with little hope of coming back or seeing loved ones pulled away from the rubble, at a time when some of the rescue operations are leaving.

“It is very hard … We will start from zero, without belongings, without a job,” said 22-year-old Hamza Bekry, a Syrian originally from Idlib who has lived in Hatay, in southern Turkey, for 12 years.

“Our house collapsed completely. Several of our relatives died, there are still ones under the rubble,” he added, as he prepared to follow his family to Isparta in southern Turkey.

He will become one of more than 158,000 people who have evacuated the vast swathe of southern Turkey hit by the quake, one of the deadliest tremors in the region’s modern history.

The disaster, with a combined death toll in Turkey and neighbouring Syria now exceeding 37,000, has devastated whole cities in both countries, leaving survivors homeless in the bitter cold, at times sleeping on piles of rubble.

“I do not have a lot of expectation from this life but the lives of our children are important,” Riza Atahan, from Hatay, said as he put his wife and daughter on a bus heading to safety some 300 km (186 miles) away.

In Syria’s shattered Aleppo city, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Monday that the rescue phase was “coming to a close”, with the focus turning to shelter, food and schooling as low temperatures reduced the already slim chances of survival.

In a public playground in Turkey’s southeastern city of Gaziantep, Syrian refugees made homeless by the quake used plastic sheets, blankets, cardboard and broken up pieces of furniture to erect makeshift tents on a patch of grass.

“People are suffering a lot. We applied to receive tent, aid or something but until now we didn’t receive anything,” said Hassan Saimoua, a refugee staying with his family in the playground.



The search for survivors is about to end in the opposition-held north west of Syria eight days after the quake, the head of the White Helmets main rescue group, Raed al Saleh, said.

“The indications we have are that there are not any (survivors) but we are trying to do our final checks and on all sites,” he said.

Russia also said it was wrapping up its search and rescue work in Turkey and Syria and preparing to withdraw from the disaster zone.

Rare news of rescues eight days after the disaster still emerged, with an 18-year-old man pulled from the rubble of a building in southern Turkey, the third rescue on Tuesday.

Muhammed Cafer, whose rescue was reported by broadcaster CNN Turk, could be seen moving his fingers as he was carried away.

A little earlier, rescuers pulled two brothers alive from the ruins of an apartment block in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras province, who Anadolu news agency named as 17-year-old Muhammed Enes Yeninar and his brother, 21-year-old Baki Yeninar. They were taken to hospital although their condition was unclear.

Dozens of residents and first responders voiced bewilderment at a lack of water, food, medicine, body bags and cranes in the disaster zone in the first days after the quake.

“People are not dead because of the earthquake, they are dead because of precautions that weren’t taken earlier,” said Said Qudsi who lost his uncle, aunt and their two sons in the quake.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who faces an election scheduled for June that is expected to be the toughest of his two decades in power, acknowledged problems in the initial response but said the situation was now under control.

Turkey faces a bill of as much as $84 billion, a business group said. Turkey’s Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said some 42,000 buildings had either collapsed, were in urgent need of demolition, or severely damaged across 10 cities.

The Turkish toll was 31,974 killed, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said on Tuesday. More than 5,814 have died in Syria according to a Reuters tally of reports from Syrian state media and a U.N. agency.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to allow U.N. aid to enter from Turkey via two more border crossings late on Monday, the world body said, in a move that could help get aid to those in northwest Syria.

It has so far received little help compared to government-held areas, leading to widespread anger among people living in the region who feel they have been left to fend for themselves.

By Henriette Chacar and Ali Kucukgocmen

(Additional reporting by Maya Gebeily, Daren Butler, Ezgi Erkoyun, Jonathan Spicer, Timour Azhari, Mehmet Caliskan, Jake Cordell; Writing by Stephen Coates and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Lincoln Feast, William Maclean)


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