Turkey-Syria earthquake: death toll rises to 33,000: Matthew 24

Turkey-Syria earthquake: death toll rises to 33,000; baby girl rescued alive after 150 hours, Turkish health minister says – as it happened

10.44 ESTPhil Irving is one of 77 search and rescue specialists from 14 fire and rescue services across the UK providing life-saving support in Turkey following the earthquake. Photograph: FCDO/PA

A British firefighter, who helped in pulling a police officer and a woman from the rubble of a building in Turkey five days after the country was devastated by an earthquake, has spoken of the rescue operation.Phil Irving, 46, from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, was part of the team who took part in the painstaking extraction, which ended on Saturday with the pair being brought out alive after being trapped for 120 hours under under a collapsed multi-storey building in Hatay, southern Turkey.The father-of-two told the PA News Agency the battle to save them and their determination to stay alive “will stay with me”.“These people were entombed in rubble and debris and we had to work around the clock to bring them out alive,” he said.“It was Friday afternoon when we first discovered signs of life. We knew 100 per cent that they were alive.“We were hearing them tapping and shouting so we knew we were close to them but reaching them was a major challenge.“It was a catastrophic collapse and access was difficult.“They were trapped in there for over five days and it will stay with me their incredible capacity to keep going, hope and believe.”Screengrab from video dated 11/02/23 of UK International Search and Rescue (UK-ISAR) who pulled a police officer and a woman from the rubble of a building in Hatay, Turkey, five days after the country was devastated by an earthquake. Photograph: FCDO/PA

He added that a successful rescue provokes “mixed” emotions, adding:If you rescue one person and they are reunited with a relative, generally speaking that person has left a loved one in the building, who has not been so lucky. It is generally a bitter-sweet moment.Of course, when we are successful in getting someone out it gives the team a boost, but I don’t think you ever have a rescue that is not moderately tarnished with the bigger reality that the survivor will have to deal with grief for the people that didn’t make it.”The watch manager at Haverfordwest station has been a firefighter for almost 24 years and a volunteer with UK International Search and Rescue (UK-ISAR) for 17 years, and was part of the 2009 Indonesia and 2010 Haiti earthquake responses.He said it “hurts my heart to see the devastation” caused to families and their homes.“I stand back and I look at the people who have lost their homes and their families and my heart bleeds for them.”

Turkish authorities have issued more than 100 arrest warrants over collapsed buildings, amid warnings that the death toll from the earthquake that struck parts of Turkey and Syria could double from the current tally of 28,000.

State media reported that at least 12 people were in custody, including contractors, architects and engineers connected to some of the tens of thousands of buildings destroyed or seriously damaged in Monday’s 7.8- and 7.6-magnitude quakes.

The situation in stricken north-west Syria, already ravaged by more than a decade of civil war and where international aid has been slow to arrive, is becoming increasingly desperate, the United Nations has said.

As public anger continued to mount in Turkey at the scale of the destruction and the pace of the rescue efforts, the arrests are likely to be seen as an attempt by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who faces tough elections in May, to deflect blame.Collapsed buildings in Antakya, Turkey. Photograph: Hassan Ayadi/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey’s vice-president, Fuat Oktay, said early on Sunday that authorities had so far identified 131 people suspected of being responsible for the collapse of some of the thousands of buildings flattened, and that detention orders had been issued for 113 of them.

“We will follow this up meticulously until the necessary judicial process is concluded, especially for buildings that suffered heavy damage and caused deaths and injuries,” Oktay said. Special investigation units have been set up in the 10 provinces affected.

The environment minister, Murat Kurum, said that based on an initial assessment of more than 170,000 buildings, 24,921 across the region had collapsed or were heavily damaged by the quake.

Opposition leaders have long accused Erdoğan’s government of not enforcing building regulations and of failing to account for the proceeds of special levy imposed after the 1999 İzmit earthquake to ensure apartment blocks and offices were more quake-resistant.

The president has accused his critics of lying and in remarks so far has seemed to blame fate for the disaster, saying such catastrophes “have always happened” and are “destiny’s plan”. He has pledged to start rebuilding within weeks.

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