A 10-day-old baby and his mother trapped in the ruins of a building in Turkey, were on Friday, rescued from the rubbles. The rescuers dug several people out from other sites as President Tayyip Erdogan said authorities should have reacted faster to this week’s huge earthquake.
The confirmed death toll from the deadliest quake in the region in two decades stood at more than 23,700 across southern Turkey and northwest Syria four days after it hitHundreds of thousands.
More people have been left homeless and short of food in bleak winter conditions and leaders in both countries have faced questions about their response.
Syrian President , Bashar al-Assad made his first reported trip to affected areas since the quake, visiting a hospital in Aleppo with his wife Asma, state media reported.
His government also approved humanitarian aid deliveries across the frontlines of the country’s 12-year civil war, a move that could speed up the arrival of help for millions of desperate people.
The World Food Programme said earlier it was running out of stocks in rebel-held northwest Syria as the state of war complicated relief efforts.
The earthquake, which struck in the early hours of Monday, ranks as the seventh most deadly natural disaster this century, ahead of Japan’s 2011 tremor and tsunami and approaching the 31,000 killed by a quake in neighbouring Iran in 2003.
Erdogan on Friday visited Turkey’s Adiyaman province, where he acknowledged the government’s response was not as fast as it could have been.
“Although we have the largest search and rescue team in the world right now, it is a reality that search efforts are not as fast as we wanted them to be,” he said.He also said looting of shops had taken place in some areas.
Erdogan is standing for re-election in a vote scheduled for May 14 and his opponents have seized upon the issue to attack him. The election may now be postponed due to the disaster.
With anger simmering over delays in the delivery of aid and getting the rescue effort underway, the disaster is likely to play into the election, if it goes ahead.
Erdogan, for whom the vote was seen as going to be his toughest challenge in two decades in power even before the earthquake, has called for solidarity and condemned what he has described as “negative campaigns for political interest”.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of Turkey’s main opposition party, criticised the government response.
“The earthquake was huge, but what was much bigger than the earthquake was the lack of coordination, lack of planning and incompetence,” Kilicdaroglu said in a statement.
The death toll from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and several powerful aftershocks across both countries has surpassed the more than 17,000 killed in 1999 when a similarly powerful earthquake hit northwest Turkey.The number of deaths in Turkey rose to 20,213 on Friday, the country’s health minister said. In Syria, more than 3,500 have been killed. Many more people remain under rubble.
A rescuer holds baby boy Kerem Agirtas, a 20-day-old survivor who was pulled from under the rubble, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, February 8, 2023. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan