Race against time: Bitter cold threatens survivors after deadly quakes kill more than 35,000 in Turkey, Syria

Temperatures overnight have been dropping into the 20s while only warming into the 40s during the day. And because of the cold weather, fears are growing that people trapped in the debris have died from being exposed to the elements.

Freezing temperatures are putting rescuers in a race against time to pull as many people as they can from the rubble of collapsed buildings after a series of powerful earthquakes killed more than 35,000 people in Turkey and Syria last week.

The death toll has now surpassed the 9.1 magnitude earthquake in Japan in 2011 that triggered a tsunami and killed more than 18,000 people.

The Associated Press reported that many of the tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the historic earthquakes have sought shelter in places like tents and stadiums, while many more have been sleeping outdoors and huddled around campfires to keep warm.

The weather forecast for Gaziantep, Turkey, near the epicenter.
(FOX Weather)


Temperatures overnight have been dropping into the 20s while only warming into the 40s during the day. Snow and rain hampered rescue efforts in the first several hours after the quake, but drier weather has since moved in.

But because of the cold weather, fears are growing that people trapped in the debris have died from being exposed to the freezing temperatures more than 150 hours after the Earth shook.

Aerial photos taken before and after the deadly temblor show the massive damage.

The AP reported that the survival window for those trapped under the rubble or unable to obtain necessities was closing rapidly. At the same time, they said it was too soon to abandon hope.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been touring devastated regions of the country since the earthquakes struck and has declared a three-month state of emergency in response. He also declared seven days of mourning to honor those who were lost and affected by the massive earthquakes.

Crews worked for six hours to free a 12-year-old girl and her father from the rubble of a building that collapsed during the earthquake in Turkey, one of the countless stories of miraculous survival amid the destruction. 

According to the Spanish volunteer nonprofit organization Intervencion Ayuda y Emergencias (IAE), the two were about 16 feet below the surface.

"Hugs of joy" were shared following the rescue, IAE wrote on Twitter.

Syria Civil Defence released video of two girls being pulled from the rubble of their collapsed home in Jindares, Syria, last Wednesday.

The video shows one of the girls being dug out from the rubble while the end of the video shows rescuers attempting to rescue the second girl.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that hundreds of families were still stuck under rubble in Jindires after the collapse of about 90 buildings, according to Storyful.


Earthquake aid hampered by road damage

According to the AP, the first U.N. aid trucks to enter northwestern Syria from Turkey arrived last Thursday. Other aid organizations have also sent in shipments of food and supplies, but the AP said the U.N. is only authorized to deliver aid through one border crossing, which has been hampered by road damage.

Other organizations worldwide have also sent teams and supplies to hard-hit areas in Turkey and Syria.

With such catastrophic damage, however, more help is welcome. There are many ways you can help earthquake victims.


Millions of people were jolted awake when the first earthquake, a magnitude 7.8, struck the region at 4:17 a.m. local time last Monday (8:17 p.m. EST last Sunday) and was almost immediately followed by a strong 6.7 magnitude aftershock, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Nine hours later, the region had another violent shake with a powerful 7.5 magnitude aftershock – just one of more than 150 aftershocks of varying magnitude that continued to shake the region for days.

According to USGS data, last Monday's initial 7.8 magnitude quake had a depth of 11 miles and was likely felt as far away as Beirut in Lebanon and Cairo in Egypt.

The area where the earthquake struck is considered seismically active. However, the USGS said there had previously only been three quakes of magnitude 6 or larger within about 150 miles of the epicenter since 1970. 

The AP noted that some 18,000 people were killed during powerful earthquakes that shook northwestern Turkey in 1999.