Turkey on Sunday said rescue efforts following last week’s devastating earthquake had ended in all but two provinces as visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced $100 million in fresh humanitarian aid.
The 7.8-magnitude tremor that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6 has killed more than 44,000 people, with the likelihood of finding survivors two weeks on extremely remote.
No survivors have been found in at least 24 hours.
The head of Turkey’s disaster agency Yunus Sezer on Sunday said search and rescue efforts had been completed in all provinces apart from Hatay and Kahramanmaras, the earthquake’s epicentre.
Sezer said search and rescue efforts continued at around 40 buildings in the provinces on the 14th day but expected the number to fall by late Sunday.
The agency head also said Turkey’s death toll had risen to 40,689.
The total death toll including Syria is now 44,377.
The winding-down of rescue operations came as Blinken arrived in Turkey to show solidarity with a NATO ally and announce a new aid package worth $100 million.
Washington’s top diplomat met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, through which the United States has shipped aid.
Blinken then accompanied Cavusoglu in a helicopter to view the damage wrought by the disaster in Hatay province.
The new aid “will be moving soon. Sadly, it’s less about search and rescue but long-term recovery. This is going to be a long-term effort”, he told reporters.
“It’s going to take a massive effort to rebuild but we’re committed to supporting that effort,” he added, saying the United States had now contributed $185 million in assistance to Turkey and Syria.
The trip had been planned before the earthquake, the worst natural disaster to hit Turkey in its post-Ottoman history.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Saturday that some 105,000 buildings either collapsed, needed to be demolished or were severely damaged.
In the devastated southeastern Turkish city of Antakya, Husseyin Yavuz told AFP he had been waiting days to find his cousin’s body under the rubble and insisted the search operations should continue.
“We’ve been here since the day of the earthquake. With God’s help, we still have hope,” he said.
Blinken’s visit — his first to NATO ally Turkey since taking office in 2021 — will also see him meet officials coordinating the delivery of US aid and see the humanitarian effort under way in Hatay.
US-Turkey relations have been strained in recent years, but Washington has since viewed Ankara as helpful for its mediatory role between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion last year.
Blinken will go to the capital Ankara late on Sunday ahead of talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday where two issues will likely be high on the agenda.
Turkey wants to buy F-16 fighter jets but the sale is being blocked in Congress due to concerns over Turkey’s human rights record and threats to Greece.
Blinken will also likely bring up Turkey’s refusal to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership applications.