Race to find survivors as quake aid pours into Turkey, Syria
NURDAG, Turkey (AP) — Search teams and emergency aid from around the world poured into Turkey and Syria on Tuesday as rescuers working in freezing temperatures dug — sometimes with their bare hands — through the remains of buildings flattened by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
The death toll soared above 5,000 and was still expected to rise.
But with the damage spread over a wide area, the massive relief operation often struggled to reach devastated towns, and voices that had been crying out from the rubble fell silent.
“We could hear their voices, they were calling for help,” said Ali Silo, whose two relatives could not be saved in the Turkish town of Nurdag.
In the end, it was left to Silo, a Syrian who arrived from Hama a decade ago, and other residents to recover the bodies and those of two other victims.
Monday's quake cut a swath of destruction that stretched hundreds of kilometres (miles) across southeastern Turkey and neighbouring Syria, toppling thousands of buildings and heaping more misery on a region shaped by Syria's 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
Aftershocks then rattled tangled piles of metal and concrete, making the search efforts perilous, while freezing temperatures made them ever more urgent.
The scale of the suffering — and the accompanying rescue effort — were staggering.
More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey alone, and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, said Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay.
They huddled in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres, while others spent the night outside in blankets gathering around fires.
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