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Grief turns to anger in Turkey, halting some quake rescue work

German and Austrian rescue teams have suspended operations in quake-devastated southeastern Turkey, as grief and hope turn to anger.

The death continues to grow rapidly – exceeding 25,250 across Turkey and northwest Syria, as the possibility of finding more survivors ebbs.

German aid agency ISAR and Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) said on Saturday they were stopping their work after riot-like situations in the province of Hatay, Deutsche Wella reported.

Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Kugelweis of the Austrian Armed Forces said it had suspended its rescue operations in Turkey due to a worsening “security situation,”

“There is increasing aggression between factions in Turkey.”

“The chances of saving a life bears no reasonable relation to the safety risk,” he said in a statement reported by the BBC.

There are also reports of looting in the Turkish city of Antakya.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, has issued stern warnings against any people involved in looting in the quake zone.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, who described the earthquake as “the worst event in 100 years in this region”, praised Turkey’s emergency response, saying it was his experience that people in disaster zones were always disappointed early in relief efforts.

He said in an interview with Sky News that “I am sure (the death toll) will double or more”

Arrests over flattened buildings

Authorities in Turkey have reportedly detained a number of individuals responsible for the construction of buildings that collapsed.

The Anadolu news agency also reports that Turkish security teams have arrested at least 98 suspects over allegedly looting damaged buildings or prank calling victims after powerful earthquakes shook the region.

Hopes fade for more survivors

Rescuers in Turkey pulled more people from the rubble early on Saturday, but hopes were fading in Turkey and Syria that many more survivors would be found.

In Kahramanmaras, close to the quake’s epicentre in southern Turkey, there were fewer visible rescue operations amid the smashed concrete mounds of fallen houses and apartment blocks, while ever more trucks rumbled through the streets shipping out debris.

 

In the rebel enclave of northwest Syria that suffered the country’s worst damage from the earthquake but where relief efforts are complicated by the more than decade-old civil war, very little aid had entered despite a pledge from Damascus to improve access.

In Antakya, body bags lay on city streets and residents were wearing masks to try to cover the smell of death.

Ordinary people had joined the rescue effort, working without official coordination, said one who declined to give his name.

“There is chaos, rubble and bodies everywhere,” he said. His group had worked overnight trying to reach a university teacher calling to them from the rubble. But by morning she had stopped responding to them, he said.

“There are still collapsed buildings untouched in the side streets,” he added.

At one building in Kahramanmaras, rescue workers burrowed between concrete slabs to reach a five year-old girl, lifting her on a stretcher, wrapped in foil, and chanting “God is great”.

They said they believed two more survivors were clinging on under the same mound of rubble.

But though several other people were reportedly saved from the rubble on Saturday including 13 year-old Arda Can Ovan, few rescue efforts now result in success.

A woman who was rescued on Friday in Kirikhan in Turkey died in hospital on Saturday.

The danger in such operations was evident in a video filmed in Hatay in Turkey, showing a partially collapsed building suddenly slipping and burying a rescuer in an avalanche of debris before his colleagues could haul him out.

About 80,000 people were being treated in hospital, while 1.05 million left homeless by the quakes were in temporary shelters, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters overnight.

Australian yet to be confirmed dead

Authorities are still yet to confirm a Sydney man is among tens of thousands who have died in the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.

The body of Can Pahali was reported to have been found in rubble earlier this week, but as of Saturday, his death was yet to be confirmed by his family or local authorities.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was providing consular assistance to his family and supporting about 80 Australians who were in the area impacted by the earthquake.

The death of another Australian woman, whose name has not been made public, and Melbourne grandfather Suat Bayram have been confirmed.

“Australian diplomatic missions in Ankara, Istanbul and Beirut are doing all they can in difficult circumstances to support families and reach out to Australians reported to be in the area,” a spokesperson for the department said on Saturday.

Vigils for earthquake victims were slated to be held on Sunday in Queensland at 7pm in Queen’s Park at Maryborough, and 1pm at HOTA’s main stage on the Gold Coast.

The Maryborough candlelight vigil was expected to include the reading of a message from the Turkish consulate, while the Gold Coast Turkish Society was hosting the HOTA vigil.

The Sydney-based Lebanese Muslim Association was appealing for donations to support earthquake victims.

—with AAP

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