Turkish leader acknowledges problems with earthquake relief effort

KAHRAMANMARAS/ANTAKYA: President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday admitted to problems with his government’s initial response to a devastating earthquake in southern Turkey amid anger from those left destitute and frustrated over the slow arrival of rescue teams.

Erdogan, who contests an election in May, said on a visit to the disaster zone that operations were now working normally and promised no one would be left homeless, as the combined death toll across Turkey and neighbouring Syria climbed above 11,000.

But across a swathe of southern Turkey, people sought temporary shelter and food in freezing winter weather, and waited in anguish by piles of rubble where family and friends may lie buried. Rescuers were still digging out some people alive. Others were found dead.

There were similar scenes and complaints in neighbouring Syria, where the impact of Monday’s huge quake extended to.

The death toll from both countries was expected to increase as hundreds of collapsed buildings in many cities have become tombs for people who had been asleep in their homes when the quake hit in the early morning.

In the Turkish city of Antakya, dozens of bodies, some covered in blankets and sheets and others in body bags, were lined up on the ground outside a hospital.

Families in southern Turkey and in Syria spent a second night in the freezing cold.

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