More than 20,500 people confirmed dead after Turkey-Syria earthquake as hope fades for more survivors


More than 20,500 people are now confirmed to have died in a devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday.

The total number who are recorded as having been killed is at least 20,511, including 17,134 in Turkey and 3,377 in the neighbouring war-ravaged country.

Both nations were hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that reduced buildings to rubble and separated families.

A man stands amongst graves in a cemetery where victims of the deadly earthquake are buried, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey

Turkey-Syria earthquake – latest updates

The crucial 72-hour window – in which people are most likely to be found alive – has now passed, but one rescuer said there is still some hope of finding further survivors.

David O’Neill, from the UK International Search and Rescue Team, told Sky News his teams were still finding people alive among the debris.

“It is surprising, but it is encouraging,” said Mr O’Neill.

“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 is facing growing criticism from families left frustrated by a slow response from rescue teams, as their hope gradually fades with the passing of time.

People react next to graves of victims of the deadly earthquake, in a cemetery in Kahramanmaras, Turkey
People at the graves of victims in a cemetery in Kahramanmaras, Turkey

During a visit to Hatay province, where more than 3,300 people have died and entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed, Mr Erdogan said: “It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster. We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.”

Similar issues are being reported in neighbouring Syria, with the country’s UN ambassador Bassam Sabbagh conceding the government has a “lack of capabilities and a lack of equipment”.

Despite families feeling frustrated by the slow rescue pace, there are cases where those trapped under the rubble are alive and being saved.

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Children rescued after nearly three days

Rescuers carry Syrian boy Mehtez Farac, 8, after he was pulled from the rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey
Rescuers carry an eight-year-old Syrian boy in Hatay, Turkey
Rescuers hold baby boy Kerem Agirtas, a 20-day-old survivor who was pulled from under the rubble in Hatay
Rescuers hold Kerem Agirtas, a 20-day-old survivor, who was pulled from under the rubble in Hatay

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has launched an appeal for funds which has gained the support of celebrities such as Daniel Craig, Sir Michael Palin, and Tamsin Greig – and received the backing of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The money will provide medical treatment for the injured, shelter for those who have lost their homes, as well as blankets, warm clothes and heaters for safe spaces.

They are also ensuring that people have enough food and clean water.

Local volunteers have set up aid centres, distributing food, water, and warm clothes to those affected, and are transporting supplies to villages hit the hardest.

The UK government will match the first £5m of donations from the public.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his “solidarity” with Turkey, having “sent 77 specialist search and rescue teams” to help on the ground.

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Scale of loss ‘hard to comprehend’

The International Search and Rescue (ISAR) volunteers managed to rescue two women, aged 60 and 90, from the rubble, and reunite a mother with her child.

Smaller search teams are struggling to fly in, however.

Martin Phillips, a volunteer part of a Wiltshire-based rescue crew, said: “It is frustrating. It’s nobody’s fault as such – the Turkish authorities wanted medium and heavy teams in first.

“Normally, the light teams get in first and lay the pathway for the bigger teams coming in.”

‘Time is running out’

White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer organisation, said “hundreds of families” remained trapped under the rubble.

Pic: White Helmets
The White Helmets are taking part in the rescue effort

They tweeted: “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.”

Earlier in the week, a miracle baby was born under the rubble and taken to hospital, but her parents were believed to be dead, according to Syrian locals.

Baby born under rubble in Syria is receiving treatment in hospital.
A baby born under the rubble in Syria is receiving treatment in hospital

The first higher-magnitude quake hit the Turkish city of Gaziantep early on Monday morning, razing parts of the south of the country and northern Syria as people slept.

Aftershocks followed, decimating more buildings and leaving thousands trapped under those that collapsed.

The DEC said it expects humanitarian needs to grow in the coming days.

There will be a special programme called Disaster Zone: The Turkey-Syria Earthquake on Sky News on Friday at 9.30pm

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