Shock assessment by UNICEF: Thousands of children dead from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria


In the worst-hit province of Hatay, residents are desperate for help for their own people crushed by the rubble, but no rescuers have been dispatched

The United Nations children’s agency said today that the earthquake and aftershocks that have destroyed huge numbers of buildings in Turkey and Syria may have killed thousands of children.

“The earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria early yesterday may have killed thousands of children,” UNICEF spokesman James Elder told reporters at a briefing in Geneva.

He added that the organization cannot determine an exact count of the dead children.

Scream of distress in Hatay province – No rescuers have arrived

In the worst-hit province of Hatay, residents are desperate for help for their own people crushed by the rubble, but no rescuers have been dispatched

“There are sounds but no one is coming out,” says Deniz, holding his head in his hands and lamenting the lack of efforts to rescue any trapped in the rubble of buildings that collapsed after the earthquake in Turkey and Syria that killed thousands.

Desperate cries for help can be heard through the wreckage of buildings in the Mediterranean coastal province of Hatay, where earthquake victims are trying to keep warm in the countryside by lighting fires in the rain and freezing cold.

Hatay, which borders Syria in the northwest, is Turkey’s worst-hit province with at least 872 dead.

Its residents complain about the inadequate response of the emergency services, while the rescuers themselves claim that it was very difficult to secure equipment.

Denis breaks down in tears as he points to a collapsed building in which his parents are trapped while waiting for rescue crews.

“We’re destroyed, we’re destroyed. My God! They’re crying for help. They’re saying ‘Save us’, but we can’t save them. How can we save them? No one has come since morning,” says Deniz.

Rescuers are struggling to cope with the scale of the devastation in southern Turkey and northwestern Syria with the total death toll exceeding 5,000 this morning.

AFAD, Turkey’s disaster agency, has announced that 13,740 rescuers have been deployed to the quake-hit area, but the extent of the damage is huge as nearly 6,000 buildings have collapsed in southern Turkey.

In Hatay alone, more than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed, Health Minister Faretin Koca announced.

Rescue teams in the province complain of a lack of equipment, while earthquake victims stop cars on the road and ask for tools to remove the rubble themselves.

The government declared a “level 4 alert” after the earthquake asking for international help, but stopped short of declaring the highest state of alert that would lead to a massive mobilization of the military.

In Hatay’s capital, Antakya, where 10-story buildings completely collapsed, Reuters reporters saw rescue efforts underway in one of dozens of piles of debris.

“There are no rescuers or soldiers. None. It’s a neglected area,” says a man who traveled to Hatay from Ankara and managed to pull a woman from the rubble of a building by himself.

“This is a human life. What can you do when you hear the sounds of life?”, asks the same man who refuses to be named while the woman he saved is in a car receiving first aid.

Hatay province is home to more than 400,000 Syrians, mostly refugees from their country’s 12-year civil war, according to the Turkish Interior Ministry.


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