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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Rescuers race against time as quake toll rises to 7,700

Rescue workers atop the rubble of a collapsed building in Malatya, Turkey, on Monday night, Feb. 6, 2023. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria early Monday.

By Safak Timur, Raja Abdulrahim and Ben Hubbard

Time was running out Tuesday as thousands of rescue workers were digging through debris in freezing conditions in an increasingly desperate search for survivors, a day after an earthquake left at least 7,700 people dead in Turkey and Syria.

“The later people are found under the rubble, the worse the chances for survival get,” said Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, a regional emergency director for the World Health Organization. The agency warned that the death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake Monday, in a region already burdened by a war and refugee crisis, could increase by the thousands.

Here are key developments:

— President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Tuesday declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 provinces affected by the earthquake. “We are face to face with one of the biggest disasters ever for our region,” he said in a nationally televised address from the capital, Ankara.

— The death toll in Turkey has risen to 5,894, Vice President Fuat Oktay said. He added that more than 8,000 people had been rescued from underneath the wreckage.

— In Syria, where more than a decade of civil war had already created a humanitarian crisis, at least 1,872 people are dead, according to the state Health Ministry and the White Helmets relief group. Thousands more were injured across the country. Many Syrian war refugees are also in the quake-stricken area of Turkey.

— Rescue efforts in Syria are complicated by the location of the quake zone, which includes government- and opposition-controlled lands. The only crossing between Syria and Turkey that is approved by the United Nations for transporting international aid into Syria is closed because of earthquake damage to surrounding roads, according to U.N. officials. Syria cannot receive direct aid from many countries because of sanctions against President Bashar Assad’s government.

— A significant fire has broken out among containers at Turkey’s Port of Iskenderun after the earthquake, A.P. Moller-Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, said Tuesday. The Danish company had said Monday that all of its operations at the port had been stopped.

— The earthquake is already one of the deadliest natural disasters this century. It was also one of the strongest ever recorded in Turkey, which sits on two fault lines that frequently cause earthquakes. One aftershock Monday almost rivaled the original temblor, reaching a magnitude of 7.5.

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