Rescuers raced to pull survivors from earthquake rubble as the death toll surpassed 9,000 in southern Turkey and war-ravaged northern Syria on Wednesday.
Officials and medics said 8,574 people have died in Turkey and 2,662 in Syria, bringing the total to 11,236. But that could still increase dramatically if the worst fears of experts are realised.
The hope of rescuing more people from under the rubble is now fading, as time passes since Monday’s pre-dawn magnitude 7.8 earthquake, the largest in Turkey since 1939, when about 33,000 people died in the eastern Erzincan province.
Since then, the region has been hit by more than 100 aftershocks, including a second 7.6-magnitude tremor.
Tragic scenes of a newborn plucked alive from the rubble and a broken father clutching his dead daughter’s hand have laid bare the human cost of the natural disaster.
Nearly two days after an apartment building collapsed in Kahramanmaras, a Turkish city not far from the epicentre, rescuers pulled a three-year-old boy from beneath the rubble.
The boy’s father, Ertugrul Kisi, who himself had been rescued earlier, sobbed as his son was pulled free and loaded into an ambulance.
A few hours later, rescuers pulled a 10-year-old girl from the rubble of her home in the city of Adiyaman. Amid applause from onlookers, her grandfather kissed her and spoke softly to her as she was loaded into an ambulance.
In the northwestern Syrian town of Jindires, residents found a crying newborn still connected by the umbilical cord to her deceased mother. The baby reportedly was the only member of her family to survive.
At least 1,280 people have died in the opposition-held northwest, with more than 2,300 injured, according to the volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets. The Syrian government has reported an additional 1,250 deaths.
The rescue team, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, said on Twitter that the number of casualties was expected to “rise significantly due to the presence of hundreds of families under the rubble, more than 50 hours after the earthquake”.