Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll tops 21,000 as hope fades in search for survivors

9 February 2023, 22:06 | Updated: 10 February 2023, 08:00

Over 20,500 people are now confirmed to have died in following the catastrophic earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria this week.
Over 20,500 people are now confirmed to have died in following the catastrophic earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria this week. Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

Over 20,500 people are now confirmed to have died in following the catastrophic earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria this week.

The total number who are recorded as having lost their lives in the disaster is at least 20,511.

This figure includes 17,134 in Turkey and 3,377 in the neighbouring Syria, which has already been ravaged by war.

Both countries fell victim to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that razed buildings, killed thousands, injured many others, and left families separated.

Meanwhile, some LBC listeners have urged Brits to sign a petition to create a Turkish Family Scheme visa for people homeless due to the earthquake

The 72-hour window, in which survivors are most likely to be found alive, has now passed, but one rescuer has said that there is still some hope that further survivors will be returned to their families.

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David O'Neill, from the UK International Search and Rescue Team, said his teams were still finding people alive among the rubble.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr O'Neill said: "It is surprising, but it is encouraging."

"The way these buildings have collapsed they leave many survivable voids within them and given the time that this happened, a lot of people are wrapped up in bedding and such."

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been with criticism from families frustrated by a slow response from rescue teams.

Search and rescue efforts continue in Adiyaman, Turkey, February 9.
Search and rescue efforts continue in Adiyaman, Turkey, February 9. Picture: Getty

During a visit to Hatay province, where over 3,300 people have died, Mr Erdogan said: "It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster. We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for."

Syria is experiencing similar issues, according to reports, and the country's UN ambassador Bassam Sabbagh has admitted that the government has a "lack of capabilities and a lack of equipment".

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has launched an appeal for funds to provide medical treatment for those injured, shelter for those who who have been left homeless, as well as blankets, heaters and warm clothes for safe spaces.

It's gained the support of celebrities such as Sir Michael Palin, Tamsin Greig, and Daniel Craig, as well as the backing of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The charity is also ensuring that people affected by the natural disaster have enough food and clean water.

Rescuers search through the rubble in Idlib, Syria, February 9.
Rescuers search through the rubble in Idlib, Syria, February 9. Picture: Getty

Local volunteers have established aid centres that are handing out food, water, and warm clothing to those affected by the quake, and are taking supplies out to villages that have been hit the hardest.

The UK government has committed to matching the first £5m of donations from the British public.

The PM Rishi Sunak expressed his "solidarity" with Turkey, and said the UK has sent 77 specialist search and rescue teams to assist rescuers on the ground.

People wait for news of their loved ones, believed to be trapped under collapsed building on February 9, 2023 in Hatay, Turkey.
People wait for news of their loved ones, believed to be trapped under collapsed building on February 9, 2023 in Hatay, Turkey. Picture: Getty

Syrian volunteer organisation White Helmets said "hundreds of families" remained trapped under the debris.

In a tweet it said: "We are at a critical point. Time is running out, hundreds of families are still stuck under the rubble.

"Every second means saving a life.

The DEC said it expects that humanitarian aid needs to increase in the coming days.

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