Turkish rescue teams hunt for quake survivors as death toll hits 36

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A handout picture taken and released on January 26, 2020 by the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality press office shows a rescue officer with a 2.5-year-old (Nusra) being rescued under the rubble of a building that collapsed in Elazig following January 24's earthquake. (AFP)
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Tents setup by the government for survivors as rescue workers try to save people trapped under debris following a strong earthquake that destroyed several buildings on Friday, in Elazig, eastern Turkey, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP)
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Rescue workers remove corpses from the rubble of a building after an earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey, on January 26, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Turkish rescue teams hunt for quake survivors as death toll hits 36

  • The magnitude 6.8 quake hit on Friday evening, with its epicenter in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in Elazig province
  • Nearly 80 buildings collapsed while 645 were heavily damaged in Elazig and Malatya

ANKARA: Working against the clock in freezing temperatures, Turkish rescue teams pulled more survivors from collapsed buildings on Sunday, days after a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the country’s east.
Authorities said the death toll rose to at least 36 people.
Turkish television showed Ayse Yildiz, 35, and her 2-year-old daughter Yusra being dragged out of the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in the city of Elazig. They had been trapped for 28 hours after the earthquake struck on Friday night.
The magnitude 6.8 quake also injured over 1,600 people but 45 survivors have been pulled alive from the rubble so far, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference Sunday in Istanbul.
More than 700 aftershocks rocked the region as over 3,500 rescue experts scrambled through wrecked buildings to reach survivors, working around the clock. Rescue teams concentrated efforts in the city’s Mustafa Pasa neighborhood and the nearby town of Sivrice.

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700 - aftershocks rocked the region as over 3,500 rescue experts scrambled through wrecked buildings to reach survivors, working around the clock.

One rescued couple was reunited with a Syrian student who had helped to dig them out of their home with his hands. “He is our hero and angel,” Dudane Aydin said of Mahmud Al-Osman.
As overnight temperatures dropped to -5 degrees Celsius, emergency teams set up more than 9,500 tents for displaced residents and distributed 17,000 hot meals.
The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said 20 of the aftershocks measured magnitude 4.0 or above, including a magnitude 4.3 quake that hit the neighboring province of Malatya on Sunday morning.
The agency said 76 buildings were destroyed and more than 1,000 were damaged by the quake.


Turkey-backed rebels regain key Syrian town of Saraqeb

Updated 27 February 2020

Turkey-backed rebels regain key Syrian town of Saraqeb

  • Three weeks ago, the armed opposition lost the northwestern town at the junction of two main highways
  • Nearly a million Syrians have been displaced by the latest fighting

AMMAN: Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have recaptured the strategic town of Saraqeb, the first significant reverse for the Syrian army in a Russian-backed offensive that had made swift gains, the rebels said on Thursday.
Three weeks ago, the armed opposition lost the northwestern town at the junction of two main highways, following advances by the Syrian army in its bid to retake the last large rebel-held region in Syria after nine years of war.
Nearly a million Syrians have been displaced by the latest fighting.
“The city of Saraqeb has been liberated completely from Assad’s gangs,” Naji Mustafa, a spokesman for a Turkey-backed coalition of rebel factions, the National Liberation Front, said in a statement, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
With Russian backing, government forces aided by Iranian militias have gained ground in northwest Syria since December.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported on Thursday that Russian-backed government forces had seized full control of southern Idlib province after fresh advances against the rebels.
Government forces have seized about 60 towns and villages in the southern Idlib area and the adjoining province of Hama in the last three days, the Observatory said.
The opposition advance on Saraqeb comes ahead of an end-February deadline set by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for Assad’s forces to pull back from territory that Turkey says is part of a buffer zone agreed with Russia.
Erdogan has said Turkey would otherwise drive them back.
Turkish and Russian officials were expected to hold a second day of talks in Ankara on Thursday on the conflict.
Ankara has sent thousands of troops and truckloads of equipment into Syria’s northwest corner bordering Turkey to back the rebels and set up new outposts that rebels say was in preparation for a Turkish operation to push back Assad’s forces.
Ibrahim Al-Idlibi, an opposition figure in touch with the rebel factions, said the seizure of the town eases pressure on rebels who in recent days lost a string of significant territory in southern Idlib province and Jabal al Zawiya highlands.
“The rebels this morning completed their control of Saraqeb after having advanced from several fronts. This eases the pressure after the Syrian army’s recent gains,” Idlibi said.
Saraqeb is at the juncture of two main roads linking the capital of Damascus and its second largest city of Aleppo and another highway west to the Mediterranean.
Taking back the M5 highway, which goes south to Damascus, from the insurgents had marked a big gain for Assad’s forces as they restored state control over the route between Syria’s two biggest cities for the first time in years of conflict.
Opening major highways in rebel hands to revive a shattered war economy has been a key goal of the Russian-led campaign.
“The opposition have now cut the highways and brought the regime to square one,” said Syrian opposition defector general Ahmad Rahhal.