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Turkey earthquake live updates: Death toll surpasses 11,000


The search for survivors grew more desperate, the homeless problem more acute and the death toll rose sharply Wednesday as rescuers labored to find signs of life amid the rubble of Monday’s earthquakes and aftershocks that laid waste to a wide swath of Turkey and Syria.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said the country’s death toll passed 8,500. The Syrian Health Ministry placed the toll in government-held areas at more than 1,200, and at least 1,400 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to the White Helmets volunteer agency.

Dale Buckner, CEO of McLean, Virginia-based Global Guardian, said his international security firm has clients in the region, and his team is helping with medical evacuations, transportation and the delivery of food, water and power supplies in and around the earthquake zone. It will take months to stabilize the region and years to recover from the disaster, he said.

“The size and scale of the destruction our team has witnessed is difficult to describe,” Buckner told USA TODAY. “Some infrastructure will never be replaced. The damage is so widespread it will be uninhabitable for years to come.”

TRAGEDY IN TURKEY: Photos capture devastating aftermath of powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake


►A 13-year-old boy was rescued from rubble on Wednesday, 55 hours after the quakes first struck, Turkish rescuers said. The boy was saved in Kahramanmaras, the epicenter earthquakes, after three hours of intense digging.

►The IKEA Foundation pledged almost $11 million to the Doctors Without Borders emergency fund to provide “life saving care where medical needs are the greatest.”

►Turkish Airlines said it evacuated 19,050 people from the region Tuesday and planned to evacuate 30,000 more Wednesday. Airline officials Yahya Ustun urged residents to “wait their turn … calmly.”

►More than 40,910 people had been injured in Turkey, according to the nation’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

►Erdogan said the government would distribute $532 to affected families in Turkey.

►Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu blamed the devastation on Erdogan’s two-decade rule, saying he had not prepared the country for a disaster and accusing him of misspending funds. Turkey elections are schedule for May.

►Syria’s Prime Minister Hussein Arnous visited collapsed neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo: ““Our priority now is to rescue the people who are still under the rubble.”

‘LIKE WE WOKE UP IN HELL’:Over 11,000 dead in quake-battered Turkey, Syria; baby rescued after being born under rubble

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

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday inspected relief efforts in Kahramanmaras province, where the two powerful quakes and aftershocks were centered. Damage was spread over at least nine other provinces, affecting more than 13 million of his nation’s 86 million people.

Erdogan toured a tent city and pledged that no one would “be left in the streets.” He acknowledged the response had started slowly but dismissed criticism that the government needed to do more.

“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,,” Erdogan said. “The state is working with municipalities, especially (disaster agencies) with all its means.”

YOU CAN HELP: How to donate to Turkey and Syria earthquake relief and recovery efforts

A kebab restaurant owner in southern Turkey’s Adana province opened three restaurants to survivors of Monday’s earthquakes. He told the Turkish news agency Anadolu he believed it was the safest place for people left homeless.

“It was raining,” Salih Oral said. “We saw people waiting in their cars, sitting on the pavement or just milling around without a place to go.”

He said he has been providing free food, soup and tea to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Oral said he also is sending food to nearby cities affected by the quakes.

Didem Incekuran, 24, has been staying at the restaurant since Monday, saying she was thankful to Oral.

“We don’t want to go back home yet. We feel safe here,” Incekuran said.

The British government pledged more funding for Syria’s “White Helmets” volunteer civil defense organization. The opposition-controlled White Helmets were organized in 2014 during the Syrian civil war to help with civilian evacuations and rescue operations after bombings in rebel areas. Now the group has been pressed into earthquake relief duty. At least four of its own members died in the quake, the group said Wednesday.

“We still hear the cries and moans of those trapped under the rubble asking for help, thousands of victims and thousands of missing people,” the group said in a Twitter post. “Please help in our response to save more lives by donating.”

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The cold made life miserable for those who lost their homes. Many survivors have had to sleep in cars, outside or in government shelters with temperatures dipping into the low 20s.

“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, said. “We did not die from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold.”

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. Searchers from France, Spain and Russia were among foreign teams tweeting photos of their efforts on the ground.

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 millions are still waiting for help.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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