ANTAKYA, Turkey (AP) – Rescuers on Monday pulled a 40-year-old woman from the wreckage of a building on Monday a week after two powerful earthquakes struck, but reports of rescues are coming in less frequently as time since the earthquake pushes the limits of the human body’s ability to survive without water, especially in sub-zero temperatures.
The 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes struck nine hours apart in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6. They killed at least 33,185 people, with the death toll expected to rise considerably as search teams find more bodies. millions in concrete fragments and twisted metal.
On Monday, rescue workers pulled a 40-year-old woman from the wreckage of a 5-story building in the town of Islahiye, in Gaziantep province. The woman, Sibel Kaya, was rescued after spending 170 hours under the rubble by a mixed team that included members of the Turkish coal mine rescue team.
Earlier, a 60-year-old woman, Erengul Onder, was also pulled from the rubble in the city of Besni, Adiyaman province, by crews from the western city of Manisa.
“We got the news of a miracle from Besni which helped to put some fire in our hearts,” Manisa Mayor Cengiz Ergun wrote on Twitter.
Eduardo Reinoso Angulo, a professor at the Institute of Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the probability of finding people alive is “very, very small right now”.
The lead author of a 2017 study involving deaths inside buildings hit by earthquakes, Reinoso said the chances of survival for people trapped in rubble drop sharply after five days and are close to zero after nine days, although there have been exceptions.
David Alexander, professor of emergency planning and management at University College London, agrees, saying the window for rescuing people alive from the rubble is “almost over”.
But, he said, the odds weren’t very good to begin with. Many of the buildings were so poorly constructed that they collapsed into very small pieces, leaving very few spaces big enough for people to survive, Alexander said.
“If any type of structure building falls, generally speaking, we find open spaces in a pile of rubble where we can tunnel,” Alexander said. “Looking at some of these pictures from Turkey and Syria, there just aren’t any spaces.”
Winter conditions further reduce the survival window. Temperatures in the region dropped to minus 6 degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.
“The typical way the body compensates for hypothermia is by shivering — and shivering requires a lot of calories,” said Dr. Stephanie Lareau, professor of emergency medicine at Virginia Tech. “So if someone is deprived of food for several days and exposed to low temperatures, they are likely to succumb to hypothermia more quickly.”
A week after the earthquake, many people were still homeless on the streets. Some survivors were still waiting in front of collapsed buildings waiting for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered.
Many in Turkey blame faulty construction for the vast devastation, and authorities have begun targeting contractors. allegedly linked to collapsed buildings.
At least 131 people are under investigation for alleged responsibility for building buildings that failed to withstand the earthquakes, officials said.
Turkey has introduced building codes that meet earthquake engineering standards, but experts say the codes are rarely enforced..
in SyriaUN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said the international community had failed to provide aid.
Visiting the Turkish-Syrian border on Sunday, Griffiths said the Syrians were “looking for international help that has not yet arrived”.
“Until now, we have failed people in northwest Syria. They rightly feel abandoned,” he said, adding: “My duty and our obligation is to correct this flaw as soon as possible.”
The death toll from the earthquake in the rebel-held region of northwest Syria has reached 2,166, according to the White Helmets rescue group. The total death toll in Syria stood at 3,553 on Saturday, although the 1,387 deaths reported in government-controlled parts of the country have not been updated for days. Turkey’s death toll stood at 29,605 as of Sunday.
In the Syrian capital Damascus, the head of the World Health Organization warned that the pain would spread, calling the disaster a “tragedy that is affecting millions”.
“The escalating crises of conflict, COVID, cholera, economic decline and now the earthquake have taken an unbearable toll,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey, and El Deeb from Adana, Turkey. Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia contributed.