Couple rescued 12 days after Turkey quake as death toll passes 46,000

Couple rescued 12 days after Turkey quake as death toll passes 46,000

A couple and their son were pulled alive from under a collapsed apartment building more than 12 days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria.

The boy, 12, died in hospital, Turkish state media reported.

A foreign search team from Kyrgyzstan rescued Samir Accar, 49, his wife, Ragda, 40, and their son while digging through the rubble of the apartment building in the southern Turkish city of Antakya on Saturday, the Anadolu news agency said.

They were rescued at about 11.30am local time — 296 hours after the February 6 earthquake — and transferred to ambulances. TV footage showing medics fixing a drip to Mr Accar’s arm as he lay on a stretcher.

One of the Kyrgyz rescuers said the team also found the bodies of two dead children. Anadolu later reported they were also children of the rescued couple.

Antakya is in Hatay province, one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake, which also caused widespread devastation in northern Syria.

Turkey’s disaster authority raised the death toll in the country to 40,642, although the number is expected to continue to rise, as more than 345,000 apartments were destroyed in the disaster and many people are still unaccounted for.

Syrian authorities say 5,800 people died there, taking the total deaths past 46,000. The death toll in Syria has not been updated for several days.

Neither Turkey nor Syria have said how many people are still missing following the quake.

Search and rescue operations are continuing in Turkey, although the head of the country’s disaster response agency said they would end on Sunday.

Tremors continue to shake the country. A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Turkey on Saturday at a depth of 10km, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre said.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to make a helicopter tour of the affected areas after arriving in Turkey on Sunday for an official visit.

Mr Blinken will land at Incirlik Air Base in the quake-hit province of Adana and is expected to hold discussions with Turkish officials about how the US can help relief efforts.

Nearly two weeks after the disaster, the focus has turned from rescue to long-term humanitarian support for survivors in Turkey as well as neighbouring Syria, where the movement of aid has been hindered by the country’s long-running civil war.

Speaking to Reuters at the Munich Security Conference, World Food Programme director David Beasley said the Syrian and Turkish governments had been co-operating very well, but that its operations were being hampered in north-west Syria.

The agency last week said it was running out of stocks in the rebel-held region and called for more border crossings to be opened from Turkey.

“The problems we are running into [are with] the cross-line operations into north-west Syria where the north-western Syrian authorities are not giving us the access we need,” Mr Beasley said.

“That is bottlenecking our operations. That has to get fixed straight away.”

“Time is running out and we are running out of money. Our operation is about $50 million a month for our earthquake response alone, so unless Europe wants a new wave of refugees, we need to get the support we need,” Mr Beasley said.

In Syria, already shattered by more than a decade of civil war, the bulk of fatalities have been in the north-west.

The area is controlled by insurgents at war with forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad, complicating efforts to get aid to people.

Thousands of Syrians who had sought refuge in Turkey from the civil war have returned to their homes in the war zone — at least for now.

Medics and experts voiced concerns over the possible spread of infection in quake-hit areas after tens of thousands of buildings collapsed and sanitation infrastructure was damaged.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday that although there had been a rise in intestinal and upper respiratory infections, the numbers did not pose a serious threat to public health.

“Our priority now is to fight against the conditions that can threaten public health and to prevent infectious diseases,” Mr Koca said.

Aid organisations say the survivors will need help for months to come with so much crucial infrastructure destroyed.

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