Night view of destroyed buildings following a deadly earthquake in Antioch, Turkey February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Henriette Chacar and Ali Kucukgocmen

ANTIOCH, Turkey, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Turkey on Monday stepped up efforts to clear rubble from collapsed buildings as rescue efforts were cut by two weeks after severe earthquakes killed more than 46,000 people in southern Turkey and northwestern Syria.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said nearly 13,000 excavators, cranes, trucks and other industrial vehicles had been dispatched to the quake area.

The death toll in Turkey stands at 41,020, according to AFAD, and is expected to rise as some 385,000 homes have been destroyed or badly damaged and many people are still missing.

Survivors of the February 6 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria include some 356,000 pregnant women who urgently need access to reproductive health services, the UN agency for sexual and reproductive health said. (UNFPA) this weekend.

That number includes 226,000 in Turkey and 130,000 in Syria, of whom some 38,800 will give birth next month.


Many of these women are housed in camps or live in sub-zero temperatures and have difficulty getting food or drinking water, which puts their health at risk.

Humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that a convoy of 14 of its trucks entered northwestern Syria on Sunday to help with earthquake rescue operations, amid growing concerns over lack of access to the war-torn area.

The World Food Program (WFP) has pressured authorities in this region of Syria to stop blocking access, while trying to help hundreds of thousands of people after the earthquakes.

In Syria, already torn by more than a decade of civil war, most deaths have occurred in the northwest. The area is controlled by insurgents who are at war with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, which has complicated efforts to help the population.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced additional aid to Turkey on Sunday and said the US would provide longer-term aid to Ankara as it rebuilds after this month’s earthquake .

Blinken arrived at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base on Sunday for an official visit and talks on how Washington can provide further assistance.

Two weeks after the disaster, search and rescue operations are winding down, but Blinken said the United States would continue to help in what he called a “long-term effort.”

(Reporting by Henriette Chacar and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing in Spanish by José Muñoz of Gdańsk Newsroom)

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