7 Feb 2023

Türkiye quake: Heavy rain hampers rescue efforts

5:55 pm on 7 February 2023

By Anna Foster in Osmaniye and Antoinette Radford in London

Rescue workers and volunteers pull out a survivor from the rubble in Diyarbakir on 6 February 2023, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country's south-east.

Rescue workers and volunteers pull out a survivor from the rubble in Diyarbakir, Türkiye, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country's south-east. Photo: AFP

Rescuers are battling heavy rain and snow as they race against the clock to find survivors of a devastating earthquake in south-east Türkiye.

More than 4300 people were killed in Türkiye and over the border in Syria when the quake struck in the early hours of Monday.

The World Health Organisation has warned the toll may rise dramatically as rescuers find more victims.

Many people in the disaster zone were too scared to return to buildings.

The 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 (01:17 GMT) on Monday at a depth of 17.9km near the city of Gaziantep, according to the US Geological Survey.

Seismologists say it was one of the largest ever recorded in Turkey, where at least 2921 people were now known to have died. Survivors said it took two minutes for the shaking to stop.

A later tremor had a magnitude of 7.5, and its epicentre was in the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaras province.

As the aftershocks continued, some rescuers dug through rubble with their bare hands looking for survivors.

In the Turkish city of Osmaniye, near the epicentre, pouring rain hampered rescuers as they searched through the rubble looking for any survivors.

The city was without power as the cold and rain set in.

One family camped on the street - despite the freezing temperatures - as they were scared of the aftershocks triggering another building to collapse.

Every time they felt an aftershock, the family moved closer into the middle of the street.

A hotel owner in the city told the BBC that of 14 guests staying that night only seven had been found.

Countries around the world were sending support to help the rescue efforts, including specialist teams, sniffer dogs and equipment.

But the earthquake has caused significant damage to three airports across Türkiye, also creating challenges for aid deliveries.

At least 1400 people were now known to have been killed in Syria where millions of refugees live in camps on the Turkish border.

British-born doctor Shajul Islam has worked in al-Shifa's hospital in Idlib, in northern Syria, for the past seven years. He told BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight programme that the carnage in the hospital was the worst had ever seen.

"Our hospital is full. We have about 300-400 patients in the hospital right now... we literally have two to three patients per bed," he said.

He said he was caring for 40-45 critically ill patients in the ICU: "I'm taking patients off ventilators to give them to other patients that might have more of a chance of surviving. We're literally at the entrance of the hospital deciding which patients we are going to try to save."

Following an international appeal for help, Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 45 countries had offered support.

UN Secretary General António Guterres called for an international response, saying that many of the families hit by the disaster were "already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge".

The European Union was sending search and rescue teams to Türkiye, while rescuers from the Netherlands and Romania were already on their way. The UK has said it will send 76 specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.

France, Germany, Israel, and the US have also pledged to help. Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered help to both Türkiye and Syria, as has Iran.

Türkiye lies in one of the world's most active earthquake zones.

In 1999 a quake killed more than 17,000 in the north-west while in 1939, 33,000 people died in the eastern province of Erzincan.

This earthquake was powerful enough to be felt as far away as Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel.


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