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Quake rescues dwindle in Turkey

Hope quickly fading as survivors seek hot meals and shelter

- By Mehmet Guzel, Suzan Fraser and Sarah El Deeb

ADIYAMAN, Turkey — Thousands left homeless by a massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria a week ago packed into crowded tents or lined up in the streets Monday for hot meals as the desperate search for survivors entered its last hours.

Rescue teams that included Turkish coal miners and experts using sniffer dogs and thermal cameras searched pulverized apartment blocks for signs of life.

In southern Hatay province, rescuers cheered and clapped as a 13-year-old boy identified only by his first name, Kaan, was pulled from the rubble.

Stories of near-miraculous rescues have flooded the airwaves in recent days, including many that were broadcast live on Turkish television and beamed around the world. But tens of thousands of dead have been found during the same period. Experts say the window for such rescues has nearly closed, given the length of time that has passed, the fact that temperatur­es have fallen to 21 degrees and the severity of the building collapses.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake and its aftershock­s struck southeaste­rn Turkey and northern Syria on Feb. 6, reducing huge swaths of towns and cities to mountains of broken concrete and twisted metal. The death toll has surpassed 35,000.

In some areas, search teams placed signs that read “ses yok” or “no sound” in front of buildings they had inspected for signs of life, HaberTurk television reported.

Associated Press journalist­s in Adiyaman saw a sign painted on a concrete slab in front of wreckage indicating that an expert had inspected it. In Antakya, people left signs near rubble with their phone numbers on them, asking crews to contact them if they find bodies.

The quake’s financial damage in Turkey alone was estimated at $84.1 billion, according to the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederat­ion, a nongovernm­ental business organizati­on. Calculated using a statistica­l comparison with a similarly devastatin­g 1999 quake, the figure was considerab­ly higher than any official estimates so far.

Elsewhere, Turkey offered to open a second border crossing to assist the internatio­nal aid effort to Syria, and the United Nations said “a lot of delicate discussion­s” were taking place to open more bordercros­sings from Turkey to Syria.

Some 62 miles from the epicenter, almost no houses were left standing in the village of Polat, where residents salvaged refrigerat­ors, washing machines and other goods from wrecked homes.

Not enough tents have arrived for the homeless, forcing families to share the tents that are available, survivor Zehra Kurukafa said.

“We sleep in the mud, all together with two, three, even four families,” Kurukafa said.

Turkish authoritie­s said Monday that more than 150,000 survivors have been moved to shelters outside the affected provinces. In the city of Adiyaman, Musa Bozkurt waited for a vehicle to bring him and others to western Turkey.

“We’re going away, but we have no idea what will happen when we get there,” said the 25-year-old. “We have no goal. Even if there was (a plan), what good will it be after this hour? I no longer have my father or my uncle. What do I have left?”

But Fuat Ekinci, a 55-yearold farmer, was reluctant to leave his home for western Turkey despite the destructio­n, saying he didn’t have the means to live elsewhere and had fields that need to be tended.

“Those who have the means are leaving, but we’re poor,” he said. “The government says, go and live there a month or two. How do I leave my home? My fields are here, this is my home, how do I leave it behind?”

Volunteers from across Turkey have mobilized to help millions of survivors, including a group of chefs and restaurant owners who served traditiona­l food such as beans and rice, and lentil soup to survivors who lined up in the streets of downtown Adiyaman.

Damage included heritage sites in places such as Antakya, on the southern coast of Turkey, an important ancient port and early center of Christiani­ty historical­ly known as Antioch. Greek Orthodox churches in the region have started charity drives to assist the relief effort and raise funds to rebuild or repair churches.

Meanwhile, rescue workers, including coal miners who secured salvage tunnels with wooden supports, found a woman alive Monday in the wreckage of a five-story building in Turkey’s Gaziantep province.

As the scale of the disaster has come into view, sorrow and disbelief have turned to rage over the sense that the emergency response was ineffectiv­e. That anger could be a political problem for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces a tough reelection battle in May.

Turkey’s death toll has exceeded 31,000, and the health minister said more than 19,000 survivors were being treated in hospitals. Deaths in Syria, split between rebel-held areas and government-held areas, have risen beyond 3,500, although those reported by the government haven’t been updated in days.

 ?? BURAK KARA/GETTY ?? People affected by the earthquake line up to receive food and goods Monday in Samandag, Turkey.
BURAK KARA/GETTY People affected by the earthquake line up to receive food and goods Monday in Samandag, Turkey.

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