Over 16,000 people are reported dead after an intense earthquake rocked Turkey and parts of Syria on Monday.
As temperatures get colder, new worries are coming up that many more may freeze to death as well; rescue efforts continue amid the rubble.
Could more have been done to avoid this tragedy? What are the biggest challenges and dangers remaining for rescuers and survivors in the aftermath?
Turkish Government Slammed Over Response to 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake
Turkey is led by an authoritarian leader named Recep Erdogan. His government is coming under heavy criticism for the way they responded to this massive earthquake. Erdogan has even admitted “shortcomings.”
Those who survived the initial massive quake are desperate for food and water, with rescue teams also coming in internationally. Many have died in collapsed buildings because rescue crews couldn’t get to them in time.
The particularly hard-hit area of Turkey’s Hatay province has been the scene of horrific tragedy, as has the origin of the quake in Kahramanmaraş Province.
Erdogan stopped in Kahramanmaraş where he delivered remarks and said the tragedy was “not possible” to fully prepare for in advance.
So far, three Americans are confirmed dead in the casualties. The United States also sent over 150 rescue personnel to help with rescue efforts and try to save more lives, as well as many countries around the world.
Miracle!❤️ #Turkey.🇹🇷#TurkeyEarthquake #PrayForTurkey #TurkeySyriaEarthquake pic.twitter.com/jXF9th3E9j
— Ne Ha (@nehashabbir6) February 9, 2023
Temperatures Drop Sharply
Temperatures hit 23 degrees by Thursday. They show no sign of warming up. So far, over 12,870 people are confirmed dead in Turkey and over 3,160 in nearby Syria.
Earthquake experts say the death count is likely to increase as the temperatures drop sharply and as we approach an even longer time that people are trapped under the wreckage of buildings and debris.
The huge and sudden damage was not something Erdogan and Turkey were prepared for; many of the buildings that didn’t completely collapse still got badly damaged.
This leaves hundreds of people trapped under collapsed and partly-collapsed buildings, with only a dozen or two rescuers there trying to pull them out in some places.
Syria, whose Assad government is sanctioned by the West, has begged for help from the EU and asked politics to be put aside.
Syria is already in very bad condition, due to its decade of vicious civil war. The EU says help is coming, but will be closely watched to ensure none goes to the Assad regime.
A father trying to break and remove debris with his bare hands in order to search for his trapped family…He shouts "Say something girls, make some noise…” But receives no reply…#TurkeySyriaEarthquake #earthquake #Turkey #earthquaketurkey #Syria #TurkeyEarthquake #TurkeyQuake pic.twitter.com/X4swWr2GBR
— Jyot Jeet (@activistjyot) February 9, 2023
Biggest Quake in a Century
This is Turkey’s biggest earthquake since 1939, when 33,000 people were killed. The last comparable earthquake in Turkey happened in 1999 when a 7.4 magnitude quake took 17,000 lives.
While it’s clear that no one person is to blame, it certainly looks like Erdogan and his forces could have been more prepared for this kind of tragedy.
Let’s hope the international community continues to mobilize and as many lives as possible are saved.
This article appeared in StatesmanPost and has been published here with permission.
Watch: Rescue workers save a dog trapped under the rubble in #Turkey's Iskenderun after the deadly #earthquake.#TurkeySyriaEarthquakehttps://t.co/yqWuTMJdn1 pic.twitter.com/Rj6JeTMd6w
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) February 9, 2023