Entire school volleyball team missing and feared dead following Turkish earthquake
Almost 30 members of a high school volley ball team who travelled from Turkish occupied Cyrpus to southern Turkey days before the region was struck by an earthquake, are missing and feared dead.
The youngsters and their teachers were staying in the Isias hotel in the centre of Adiyaman when the area was hit by the 7.8-magnitude quake which has so far claimed more than 15,000 lives.
Much of the city centre was demolished with multi-storey buildings pancaking into the ground, trapping thousands of people.
Relatives of those missing said they have not had any contact with the group since Monday’s disaster.
The group are from the coastal town of Famagusta, which is in the northern part of Cyprus that was seized by Turkish troops in 1974.
Family members of a Turkish-Cypriot volley ball team who were in Adiyaman, Turkey on Monday have appealed for help to find the youngsters and their teachers after the hotel they were staying in collapsed
Family members have released images of the missing players, who are from Famagusta in the Turkish occupied area of Cyprus
Officials fear that groups form the Namik Kemal High School and the Maarif Turkish College in Famagusta are among those missing.
Rescue teams have travelled from Famagusta to assist in the search as Turkish authorities are being overwhelmed by the level of destruction.
A seven-day mourning period was announced on Monday evening in Turkey and the north over the earthquake that left over 3,000 dead in Turkey and Syria.
Relatives and a ‘civil defence’ team have flown from the north to Adiyaman in Turkey, where a volleyball team from north Famagusta was staying. They had flown for a championship and the team included a total of 28 students and their escorts.
Large sections of Adiyaman were destroyed by Monday’s devastating earthquake
The flight from the north comprised of the ‘civil defence’ as well as relatives of the 28 students. They were staying at the Isias hotel which has completely collapsed, according to reports.
According to Cyprus Mail, one mother who has flown to Adiyaman said: ‘There are no news of our children, whoever we asked told us that no children came out of there. The eight storey hotel has completely collapsed.’
However, hopes of finding more survivors trapped in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by a huge earthquake are fading – as the death toll passed 15,000.
Stretched rescue teams have toiled through the night in Turkey and Syria, hunting for signs of life in the aftermath of the world’s deadliest quake in more than a decade.
Amid calls for the Turkish government to send more help to the disaster zone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the especially hard-hit Hatay province, where more than 3,300 people died and entire neighbourhoods were destroyed.
Residents in the area have criticised the government’s response, saying rescuers were slow to arrive.
Mr Erdogan, who faces a tough battle for re-election in May, acknowledged ‘shortcomings’ in the response to the 7.8-magnitude quake on Monday but said the winter weather had been a factor.
People have been forced to sleep outside as they feel remaining indoors is too dangerous
Rescuers continue the search for people trapped in the rubble but hopes are fading rapidly
The earthquake destroyed the runway in Hatay’s airport, further disrupting the response.
‘It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,’ Mr Erdogan said. ‘We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.’
He vowed to have all debris removed and homes rebuilt within a year in the 10 provinces of his country most affected by the earthquake.
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.
But the scale of destruction from the quake and its powerful aftershocks was so immense – and spread so wide, including in areas isolated by Syria’s ongoing civil war – that many are still waiting for help.
In the Turkish city of Malatya, bodies were placed side by side on the ground, covered in blankets, while rescuers waited for funeral vehicles to pick them up, according to former journalist Ozel Pikal, who saw eight bodies pulled from the ruins of building.
Mr Pikal, who took part in the rescue efforts, said he believes at least some of the victims may have frozen to death as temperatures dipped to minus six degrees Celsius.
‘Today isn’t a pleasant day because as of today there is no hope left in Malatya,’ he said. ‘No one is coming out alive from the rubble.’
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Two girls (one girl pictured) and a boy were brought to safety by rescuers from the White Helmets group in Idlib, Syria
Mr Pikal said a hotel building collapsed in the city and more than a hundred people may be trapped.
There is a shortage of rescuers in the area he is in and the cold has hampered rescue efforts by volunteers and government teams, he said.
Road closures and damage in the region have also impeded mobility and access.
‘Our hands cannot pick up anything because of the cold,’ Mr Pikal said. ‘Work machines are needed.’
The scale of suffering is staggering in a region already beset by more than a decade of civil war in Syria, which has displaced millions within the country and sent more to seek refuge in Turkey. With thousands of buildings toppled, it is not clear how many people may still be trapped underneath the rubble.
Turkey’s disaster management agency said the country’s death toll has passed 8,500. The Syrian Health Ministry said the death toll in government-held areas has climbed past 1,200, while at least 1,400 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to volunteer first aiders known as the White Helmets.
That brought the overall total to 11,000 since Monday’s earthquake and multiple strong aftershocks. Tens of thousands more are injured.
A 2011 earthquake near Japan which triggered a tsunami left nearly 20,000 people dead. Neither Turkey nor Syria provided figures for the number of people still missing as Pope Francis asked during his weekly general audience for prayers and demonstrations of solidarity following the ‘devastating’ earthquake.
In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing war and the isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by Russia-backed government forces. Syria itself is an international pariah under western sanctions linked to the war.
The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes which hit north-west Turkey in 1999.