Two women were found alive in Turkey after being trapped in the wreckage of collapsed buildings for 122 hours following the region’s deadliest earthquake in 20 years, officials said on Saturday.
The death toll in southern Turkey and northwest Syria has surpassed 24,150 a day after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed that authorities should have responded to Monday’s massive earthquake more quickly.
Images from the state news agency Anadolu showed one of the women, Menekse Tabak, 70, being swaddled in a blanket as she was being carried to an ambulance in Kahramanmaras.
The other was a 55-year-old man named Masallah Cicek who was rescued from a building’s rubble in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in southeast Turkey, according to the news agency.
In an effort that drew in 31,000 rescuers from across the affected region, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters overnight that 67 people had been rescued from the rubble in the previous 24 hours.
According to him, 1.05 million people who were made homeless by the earthquakes were huddled in makeshift shelters while about 80,000 people were receiving medical attention in hospitals.
By providing them with permanent housing within a year, Oktay said, “our main goal is to ensure that they return to a normal life and that they heal their pain as quickly as possible.”
Questions about their response are growing for the leaders of both countries as many people are left without food during the harsh winter.
According to state media, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited a hospital in Aleppo with his wife Asma on his first known trip to the affected areas since the earthquake.
His government gave the go-ahead for the distribution of humanitarian aid along the front lines of the nation’s 12-year civil war, which could hasten the arrival of aid for millions of indigent people.
Prior to this, the World Food Programme warned that supplies were running low in northwest Syria, which is controlled by rebels.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday ranks as the seventh deadliest natural disaster this century, surpassing Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami and coming close to the 31,000 people killed by a quake in neighboring Iran in 2003. It also produced a number of strong aftershocks across Turkey and Syria.
More than 17,000 people perished in 1999 in northwest Turkey due to a similar powerful earthquake.
Erdogan visited the province of Adiyaman in Turkey on Friday, where he admitted that the government’s response was not as quick as it could have been.
Even though we currently have the largest search and rescue team in the world, he said, “it is a fact that search efforts are not moving as quickly as we would like them to.”
Erdogan is seeking re-election in a vote scheduled for May 14; however, the election may be delayed as a result of the catastrophe. Detractors have seized on the issue to attack Erdogan.
The election is likely to be influenced by simmering resentment over the delays in aid distribution and the start of rescue operations.
The vote was anticipated as Erdogan’s toughest test in his 20 years in office even before the earthquake. In addition to urging unity, he denounced “negative campaigns for political interest.”
The leader of Turkey’s largest opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, criticized the government’s response.
In a statement, he said, “The earthquake was enormous, but what was much bigger than the earthquake was the lack of coordination, lack of planning, and incompetence.”
The disaster management organization reported that 20,665 people had died in Turkey as of Saturday. More than 3,500 people have died in Syria. Many more are still buried in debris.
Rescuers working day and night in the wreckage of tens of thousands of destroyed buildings to unearth buried survivors included teams from dozens of nations.
They frequently requested silence as they struggled to hear any sounds of life coming from piles of broken concrete while it was icy outside.
Inshallah, which is Arabic for “God willing,” was whispered by rescuers as they carefully reached into the rubble and pulled a 10-day-old baby out of the Samandag district of Turkey.
The infant, named Yagiz Ulas, was wrapped in a thermal blanket and transported to a field hospital with his eyes wide open. Video images showed that emergency personnel also carried his mother away, who was conscious but pale and confused.