The large earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria has topped 20,000 lives lost as rescue efforts become recovery efforts.
The epicenter of Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake was under the city of Kahramanmaras, an area home to over 13 million people in Turkey and neighboring Syria. The Turkish president has declared it “The disaster of the century” as the toll of confirmed dead continues to rise and tens of thousands remain missing.
While the occasional survivor is still being plucked from the rubble after more than 4 days, the odds are rapidly decreasing. Temperatures in the area are well below freezing at night, and structures that rescuers have to search are increasingly dangerous.
Survivors who were waiting to see if their families could be rescued from half-collapsed buildings are now being faced with watching those buildings be demolished to prevent further collapse, extinguishing hope of finding anyone alive inside.
Mehmet Yilmaz, 67, watched from a distance as bulldozers and other demolition equipment began to bring down what remained of the building where six of his family members had been trapped, including four children. He lived in the town of Nurdagi, a small city about 35 miles from the epicenter which has few intact buildings left.
He estimated that about 80 people were still beneath the rubble and doubted that anyone would be found alive.
“There’s no hope. We can’t give up our hope in God, but they entered the building with listening devices and dogs, and there was nothing,” Yilmaz said.
The government has been doing its best to arrange shelter and relief efforts, but the destruction of the large earthquake is so much greater than anything the country has ever faced before, even in war.
“As you know, the earthquake hit an area of 500-kilometer (311-mile) diameter where 13.5 million of our people live, and that made our job difficult,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.
Photo: Ahmet AYUNAL / Shutterstock