Death toll exceeds 33,000 in Turkey-Syria earthquake

Ankara [Turkey], February 13 (ANI): The death toll across Turkey and Syria following last Monday’s catastrophic earthquake has reached 33,181, according to the latest figures, reported CNN.

The death toll in Turkey has climbed to 29,605, the Turkish Emergency Coordination Center SAKOM said Sunday.

In Syria, the total number of deaths stands at 3,576, including 2,168 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the ‘White Helmets’ civil defence group, and 1,408 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media citing the health ministry on Saturday.

The White Helmets, who announced the end of their search and rescue operations on Friday, told CNN on Saturday that the total number of dead is expected to be much higher.

Rescuers pulled a two-month-old baby miraculously in Turkey’s Hatay province 108 hours after the deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, according to Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Sunday.

Koca also posted videos of the baby to Twitter, and said he survived despite being hungry for hours. The baby is in Adana City Hospital now and is in good health, according to Koca.

The Turkish state broadcaster also showed a video of the baby smiling and laughing, saying he was alive after "arduous efforts to rescue" him.

The United Nations says up to 5.3 million people in Syria may be homeless after the earthquakes, while nearly 900,000 people are in urgent need of hot food in Turkey and Syria, reported Al Jazeera.

The Syrian government has approved the delivery of humanitarian aid to quake-hit areas outside its control, according to state media.

Turkey says it is working to open two new routes into rebel-held parts of Syria.

Earthquakes in Turkey earlier this week rank among the world’s largest continental quakes ever recorded, according to a Canadian seismologist.

Speaking to the Anadolu news agency, Edwin Nissen, a professor of seismology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said last Monday’s temblors in Turkey and Syria are among the top five or 10 continental quakes ever recorded.

"What makes it so damaging is the combination of its magnitude and its location and a densely populated part of Turkey and obviously bordering with a densely populated part of Syria," he explained.

Saying that actually the largest earthquakes normally occur in the oceans, Nissen underlined, however, that these quakes were less powerful than continental earthquakes.

Aid groups and public health experts warn that a series of devastating earthquakes could exacerbate a cholera outbreak in Syria first detected last year.

The warnings come as rescue operations ceased in both opposition and government-held portions of Syria — and hope diminished amid remaining searches in Turkey — six days after a series of quakes hit the region, reported Al Jazeera.

Across war-torn Syria, where the UN has estimated that 5.3 million people have been left homeless by the disaster, "there was a perfect storm brewing before the earthquake — of increasing food insecurity, collapsing healthcare systems, the lack of access to safe water and poor sanitation", said Eva Hines, chief of communications for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Austrian Army has resumed rescue operations in Turkey following a brief halt due to security risks, according to the Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU).

Operations were suspended early on Saturday due to an "increasingly difficult security situation," AFDRU said in a statement that day, adding there was "increasing aggression between groups in Turkey."Later on Saturday, Austrian Army spokesman Michael Bauer said on Twitter that teams had resumed operations.

AFDRU posted a photo on Facebook with a caption stating that a rescue dog handler was again helping Turkish rescue workers, with Turkish forces providing security in the search areas.

Since Tuesday, 82 AFDRU soldiers have been deployed and are scheduled to leave on Thursday.

German rescue operations "in general" remain suspended due to security concerns, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) told CNN on Sunday.

However, it added that last night the agency’s paramedics and technical equipment had supported Turkish teams in their efforts to get an 88-year-old woman out from under the rubble.

THW told CNN that the team would remain in Turkey "until search and rescue efforts are ended by Turkish officials." (ANI)