Earthquake updates-death toll passes 21,000

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Death toll in Turkey alone is now more than 17,000 following Monday’s earthquake

The death toll from Monday’s earthquake on both sides of the border in Turkey and Syria is now more than 21,000.

Officials and medics said 17,674 people had died in Turkey and 3,377 in Syria from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor, bringing the confirmed total to 21,051, Agency France Presse reports.

It comes after the White Helmets said on Twitter, that at least 2,030 people have been killed with more than 2,950 injured. Earlier on Thursday the death toll in the rebel-held area was 1,900.

Associated Press has this heart-rending dispatch about the situation facing orphaned Syrian babies and children whose parents were killed in the earthquake:

A Syrian baby girl whose mother gave birth to her while trapped under the rubble of their home during this week’s devastating earthquake now has a name: Aya, Arabic for “a sign from God.” With her parents and all her siblings killed, her great-uncle will take her in.

Aya is one of untold numbers of orphans left by Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 20,000 people in northern Syria and southeastern Turkey. The pre-dawn quake brought down thousands of apartment buildings on residents as they were roused from sleep, so entire families often perished.

In most cases, relatives take in orphaned children, doctors and experts say. But those surviving relatives are also dealing with the wreckage of their own lives and families. In the continued chaos days after the quake, with the dead and a dwindling number of survivors still being found, doctors say it’s impossible to say how many children lost their parents.

At one hospital in north-west Syria, a red-haired 7-year-old girl, Jana al-Abdo, asked repeatedly where her parents were after she was brought in, said Dr Khalil Alsfouk, who was treating her. “We later found out she was the only one who survived among her entire family,” he said.

In the case of the newborn Aya, her father’s uncle, Salah al-Badran, will take her in once she is released from the hospital.

But his own house was also destroyed in the north-west Syrian town of Jindires. He and his family managed to escape the one-story building, but now the household of 11 people are living in a tent, he told the Associated Press.

“After the earthquake, there’s no one able to live in his house or building. Only 10% of the buildings here are safe to live in and the rest are unlivable,” he said, communicating via voice messages.

Rescue workers in Jindires discovered Aya on Monday afternoon, more than 10 hours after the quake hit, as they were digging through the wreckage of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived.

Buried under the concrete, the baby was still connected by her umbilical cord to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead, along with her husband and four other children. The baby was rushed to a hospital in the nearby town of Afrin.

Abu Hadiya probably gave birth to the girl and then died a few hours before they were discovered, said Dr Hani Maarouf at Cihan hospital in Afrin.

“We named her Aya, so we could stop calling her a new-born baby,” said Maarouf. Her condition is improving by the day and there was no damage to her spine, as initially feared, he said.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, said it has been monitoring children whose parents are missing or killed, providing food, clothes and medicine and coordinating with hospitals to track down extended family members who might be able to care for them.In Turkey, the ministry of family and social services appealed to potential foster families to submit applications. It said children whose families or relatives could not be found were currently being taken care of in state institutions. Staff were assessing their needs and placing them with registered foster families, the ministry said.

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