Turkey-Syria earthquake live news: Death toll tops 15,000

People sit around a fire next to rubble and damage, near the site of a collapsed building, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 8, 2023 [Suhaib Salem/ Reuters]
  • The death toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquakes has risen to more than 15,000.
  • At least 12,391 people have died in Turkey, according to officials, while at least 2,992 have been killed in Syria.

The man who survived the Turkey earthquake, and his family who didn’t

Reuters has this heartbreaking story from Turkey’s Hatay, where the agency’s photographer Umit Bektas witnessed rescuers trying to pull Abdulalim Muaini out from the rubble of his home.

Abdulalim’s legs were trapped under a large slab of concrete but he was conscious and able to talk to his rescuers.

Close beside him lay his wife, Esra. The rescue had come too late for her.

The Reuters photographer was not able to speak directly with Abdulalim but two of his friends were standing nearby. They said Abdulalim was of Syrian origin, from Homs. He had fled the civil war and married Esra, a Turkish woman. The couple had two daughters, Mahsen and Besira, they said. It was unclear what had happened to the girls.

Rescues can take a long time and when Bektas returned to the scene hours later, he eventually saw Abdulalim successfully rescued. He was covered in grey dust, one eye was swollen and he was dehydrated and needed medical attention. But he survived.

His family did not. On the ground lay three bodies wrapped in blankets – Esra, Mahsen and Besira.

‘Our children are freezing’: Survivours spending night in cars, tents

Children stand in a street of Gaziantep, two days after a strong earthquake struck the region

Temperatures in the quake-stricken Turkish city of Gaziantep plunged to minus five degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) early on Thursday but thousands of families spent the night in cars and makeshift tents, too afraid to return to their homes – or banned from doing so.

Parents walked the streets of the city carrying children in blankets because it was warmer than sitting in a tent.

“When we sit down, it is painful, and I fear for anyone who is trapped under the rubble in this,” said Melek Halici, who had wrapped her two-year-old daughter in a blanket as they watched rescuers working late into the night. “Eventually, we will have to go to the tent but I don’t want to,” she told the AFP news agency. “I can’t bear the cold but nor can I think about going back to our apartment.”

Around the Halicis, smoke from dozens of fires filled the night air. Supermarkets and other businesses gave wooden pallets to families to burn. Some people found sanctuary with neighbours or relatives. Some left the region.

But many have nowhere to go.Children stand in a street of Gaziantep, two days after a strong earthquake struck the region, on February 8, 2023 [Zein Al-Rifai/ AFP]

Gyms, mosques, schools and some stores have opened up at night. But beds are still at a premium and thousands spend the nights in cars with engines running to provide heat.

“I have no choice,” said Suleyman Yanik, as he sat with one child playing with the steering wheel, while his wife and another child slept in the back seat. “The smell is horrible, but we cannot go home,” he told AFP.

Poor families who have been camping around Gaziantep’s sixth-century castle, badly damaged by the quake, said authorities have done nothing for them. The families have built makeshift homes with tarpaulin and wood thrown away by others.

“They could at least have given us some tents,” said Ahmet Huseyin.

“Our children are freezing,” added the 40-year-old father of five whose nearby house was virtually destroyed by the 7.8 magnitude tremor.

“We have had to burn the park benches and even some of the children’s clothes. There was nothing else,” he said.

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