More earthquake survivors rescued in Turkey but survival window closing

- Advertisement -

Rescue crews in Turkey pulled a 40-year-old woman from the wreckage of a building on Monday, a week after two powerful earthquakes struck.

However, reports of rescues are becoming rarer as the time since the quake reaches the limits of the human body’s ability to survive without water, especially in sub-freezing temperatures.

At least 33,185 people were killed, with the death toll expected to rise considerably as search teams find more bodies, and towns and cities inhabited by millions reduced to fragments of concrete and twisted metal.

On Monday, a mixed crew, including members of Turkey’s coalmine rescue team, pulled a 40-year-old woman from the wreckage of a five-storey building in the town of Islahiye, in Gaziantep province.

Sibel Kaya had spent 170 hours beneath the rubble.

Turkey Syria Earthquake
Rescue workers pull a survivor from a collapsed building in Adiyaman, southern Turkey (IHA/AP)

“We received the news of a miracle from Besni which helped put the fire raging in our hearts a little,” Manisa’s mayor, Cengiz Ergun, wrote on Twitter.

Eduardo Reinoso Angulo, a professor at the Institute of Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the likelihood of finding more people alive is “very, very small now”.

Prof Angulo, the lead author of a 2017 study involving deaths inside buildings struck by earthquakes, said the odds of survival for people trapped in wreckage fall dramatically after five days, and is near zero after nine days, although there have been exceptions.

Turkey Syria Earthquake
Women sit in front of the rubble of an area destroyed during the earthquake in Antakya, south-eastern Turkey (Bernat Armangue/AP)

But, he said, the odds were not very good to begin with – many of the buildings were so poorly constructed that they collapsed into very small pieces, leaving very few spaces large enough for people to survive in.

“If a frame building of some kind goes over, generally speaking we do find open spaces in a heap of rubble where we can tunnel in,” Prof Alexander said. “Looking at some of these photographs from Turkey and from Syria, there just aren’t the spaces.”

Wintry conditions further reduce the window for survival. Temperatures in the region have fallen to minus 6C (21F) overnight.

“The typical way the body compensates for hypothermia is shivering – and shivering requires a lot of calories,” said Dr Stephanie Lareau, a professor of emergency medicine at Virginia Tech in the US.

“So if somebody’s deprived of food for a number of days and exposed to cold temperatures, they’re probably going to succumb to hypothermia more rapidly.”

APTOPIX Turkey Syria Earthquake
A family warm themselves around a campfire in front of the building where five relatives were fatally trapped during the earthquake in Antakya (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Some survivors are still waiting in front of collapsed buildings for the bodies of their loved ones to be retrieved.

Many in Turkey blame faulty construction for the vast devastation, and authorities have begun targeting contractors allegedly linked with buildings that collapsed.

At least 131 people are under investigation for their alleged responsibility in the construction of buildings that failed to withstand the quakes, officials said.

Turkey has introduced construction codes that meet earthquake-engineering standards, but experts say the codes are rarely enforced.

In Syria, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said the international community has failed to provide aid.

Turkey Syria Earthquake
A week after the two earthquakes hit, many people are still without shelter (Bernat Armangue/AP)

“We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria. They rightly feel abandoned,” he said, adding: “My duty and our obligation is to correct this failure as fast as we can.”

The earthquake death toll in Syria’s north-western rebel-held region has reached 2,166, according to rescue group the White Helmets.

The overall death toll in Syria stood at 3,553 on Saturday, although the 1,387 deaths reported for government-held parts of the country had not been updated for days. Turkey’s death toll was 29,605 as of Sunday.

In the Syrian capital, Damascus, the head of the World Health Organisation warned that the pain will ripple forward, calling the disaster an “unfolding tragedy that’s affecting millions”.

“The compounding crises of conflict, Covid, cholera, economic decline, and now the earthquake have taken an unbearable toll,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.