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Hope Fades as Turkey, Syria Deaths Rise02/08 06:17

   With hope fading to find survivors, stretched rescue teams toiled through 
the night in Turkey and Syria, searching for signs of life in the rubble of 
thousands of buildings toppled by a catastrophic earthquake. The death toll 
rose Wednesday to more than 11,000 in the deadliest quake worldwide in more 
than a decade.

   GAZIANTEP, Turkey (AP) -- With hope fading to find survivors, stretched 
rescue teams toiled through the night in Turkey and Syria, searching for signs 
of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by a catastrophic 
earthquake. The death toll rose Wednesday to more than 11,000 in the deadliest 
quake worldwide in more than a decade.

   Amid calls for the Turkish government to send more help to the disaster 
zone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured a "tent city" in Kahramanmaras 
where people forced from their homes are living. He conceded shortfalls early 
on in the response but vowed that no one would "be left in the streets."

   Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of 
thousands of local emergency personnel, and aid pledges have poured in from 
around the world. But the scale of destruction from the 7.8 magnitude quake and 
its powerful aftershocks was so immense -- and spread so wide, including in 
areas isolated by Syria's ongoing civil war -- that many are still waiting for 
help.

   In the Turkish city of Malatya, bodies were placed side by side on the 
ground, covered in blankets, while rescuers waited for funeral vehicles to pick 
them up, according to former journalist Ozel Pikal who saw eight bodies pulled 
from the ruins of building.

   Pikal, who took part in the rescue efforts, said he believes at least some 
of the victims may have frozen to death as temperatures dipped to minus 6 
degrees Celsius (21 Fahrenheit).

   "Today isn't a pleasant day, because as of today there is no hope left in 
Malatya," Pikal told the AP by telephone. "No one is coming out alive from the 
rubble."

   Pikal said a hotel building collapsed in the city, and more than a hundred 
people may be trapped.

   There was a shortage of rescuers in the area he was in, and the cold 
hampered rescue efforts by volunteers and government teams, he said. Road 
closures and damage in the region have also impeded mobility and access.

   "Our hands cannot pick up anything because of the cold," said Pikal. "Work 
machines are needed."

   The scale of suffering was staggering in a region already beset by more than 
a decade of civil war in Syria that has displaced millions within the country 
and sent more to seek refuge in Turkey. With thousands of buildings toppled, it 
was not clear how many people might still be trapped underneath the rubble.

   Turkey's disaster management agency said the country's death toll passed 
8,500. The Syrian Health Ministry said the death toll in government-held areas 
has climbed past 1,200, while at least 1,400 people have died in the rebel-held 
northwest, according to volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets.

   That brought the overall total to 11,000 since Monday's earthquake and 
multiple strong aftershocks. Tens of thousands more are injured.

   A 2011 earthquake near Japan that triggered a tsunami left nearly 20,000 
people dead. Neither Turkey nor Syria provided figures for the number of people 
still missing as Pope Francis asked during his weekly general audience for 
prayers and demonstrations of solidarity following the "devastating" earthquake.

   Syrian officials said the bodies of more than 100 Syrians who died during 
the earthquake in Turkey were brought back home for burial through the Bab 
al-Hawa border crossing. Mazen Alloush, an official on the Syrian side of the 
border, said 20 more bodies were on their way to the border, adding that all of 
them were Syrian refugees who fled war in their country.

   While concerns are rising for those still trapped, Polish rescuers working 
in Turkey said they had pulled nine people alive from the rubble so far, 
including parents with two children and a 13-year-old girl from the ruins in 
the city of Besni.

   They acknowledged that low temperatures were working against them, though 
two firefighters told Polish TVN24 that the fact that people were caught in bed 
under warm covers by the pre-dawn quake could help. The rescuers are currently 
trying to reach a woman who they know is in her bed.

   Nearly two days after the quake, rescuers pulled a 3-year-old boy, Arif 
Kaan, from beneath the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in 
Kahramanmaras, which is not far from the epicenter.

   With the boy's lower body trapped under slabs of concrete and twisted rebar, 
emergency crews lay a blanket over his torso to protect him from below-freezing 
temperatures as they carefully cut the debris away from him, mindful of the 
possibility of triggering another collapse.

   The boy's father, Ertugrul Kisi, who himself had been rescued earlier, 
sobbed as his son was pulled free and loaded into an ambulance.

   "For now, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kaan," a Turkish 
television reporter proclaimed as the dramatic rescue was broadcast to the 
country.

   A few hours later, rescuers pulled 10-year-old Betul Edis from the rubble of 
her home in the city of Adiyaman. Amid applause from onlookers, her grandfather 
kissed her and spoke softly to her as she was loaded on an ambulance.

   On Monday afternoon in a northwestern Syrian town, residents found a crying 
newborn still connected by the umbilical cord to her deceased mother. The baby 
was the only member of her family to survive a building collapse in the small 
town of Jinderis, relatives told The Associated Press.

   But such stories were few more than two days after Monday's pre-dawn 
earthquake, which hit a huge area and brought down thousands of buildings, with 
frigid temperatures and ongoing aftershocks complicating rescue efforts.

   Many survivors in Turkey have had to sleep in cars, outside or in government 
shelters.

   "We don't have a tent, we don't have a heating stove, we don't have 
anything. Our children are in bad shape. We are all getting wet under the rain 
and our kids are out in the cold," Aysan Kurt, 27, told the AP. "We did not die 
from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold."

   In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing war and the 
isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by 
Russia-backed government forces. Syria itself is an international pariah under 
Western sanctions linked to the war.

   The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by 
earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit 
northwest Turkey in 1999.

 
 
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