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Turkey all but ends earthquake rescue efforts as signs of survivors fade

Meanwhile, top US diplomat Antony Blinken visits southern Turkey and engineers accuse state of ignoring warnings
A Turkish rescue worker pictured among the rubble in earthquake-hit Turkish city of Kahramanmaras on 19 February 2023 (Anadolu Agency)
A Turkish rescue worker pictured among the rubble in the earthquake-hit city of Kahramanmaras on 19 February 2023 (Anadolu Agency)

Turkey has ended rescue efforts in all provinces except the two hardest hit by last week's massive earthquake, the Turkish disaster agency said on Sunday.

"In many of our provinces, search and rescue efforts have been completed. They continue in Kahramanmaras and Hatay provinces," the agency's chief Yunus Sezer told reporters in Ankara. 

The epicentre of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on 6 February was in Pazarcik district in Kahramanmaras. The tremor hit 11 Turkish southeastern provinces and cities across northern Syria

Sezer said search and rescue efforts continued at around 40 buildings in the provinces on the 14th day but he expected the number to fall by late Sunday.

Turkey earthquake: Boy among four survivors found in the rubble in last 24 hours
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There had been abundant coverage of rescue teams finding survivors but such breakthroughs have now slowed down, with no survivors found in at least 24 hours.

On Saturday, rescuers found a man and a woman alive in the 296th hour after the quakes in the southern Turkish city of Antakya but their three children did not survive, local media said. Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu was also found dead on Saturday in Hatay, his agent announced.

That came after four people including a 14-year-old boy were rescued on Thursday and Friday.

The disaster agency head also said Turkey's death toll had risen to 40,689.

The total death toll including Syria is now 44,377.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday that some 105,000 buildings either collapsed, needed to be demolished or were severely damaged in the quake.

In a message on Twitter, the disaster agency urged quake victims not to enter severely damaged buildings, "even briefly", to get their belongings inside.

'We must learn the lesson'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Turkey on Sunday to show support to the Nato ally, which has had tumultuous ties with Washington.

The top US diplomat arrived at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, through which the United States has shipped aid after the worst natural disaster to hit the region in more than a century.

He will meet officials coordinating the delivery of US aid and see the humanitarian effort under way in Hatay, one of the worst affected Turkish provinces.

The United States has sent rescue teams and contributed an initial $85m in relief for Turkey and Syria, deploying helicopters to bring supplies to worst-hit areas.

Turkey earthquake: 'State ignored our warnings', say engineers and architects
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Meanwhile, over the weekend the union of architects and engineers in Adiyaman, southern Turkey, called out the government and local administrators for remaining indifferent to their warnings about construction faults prior to the earthquake, saying they repeatedly requested regulations be changed.

"Despite the fact that we had sent our relevant reports to Ankara as well as the governorate and municipality of Adiyaman, they turned deaf," Ufuk Bayir, the general secretary of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) in Adiyaman, told Middle East Eye.

The Adiyaman union told MEE it had asked the government numerous times over the years to change construction regulations, including introducing a ban on assigning one engineer to multiple constructions. But the government has ignored their requests.

"If the required measures were taken, and the regulations were applied precisely, the buildings would be sounder, and we wouldn't have witnessed the death of that many people," Bayir said.

"Now, 30 percent of Adiyaman's city centre is gone. The rest is damaged. We have lost thousands of people. We are on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. We must learn the lesson and be prepared for the future."

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