Rescuers in southern Turkey pulled a woman from the rubble of a building Monday, more than a week after a series of powerful earthquakes struck the region.
The rescue of the 40-year-old in the town of Islahiye, in Gaziantep province, came as experts warned the window is closing for finding more people alive in what remains of collapsed buildings.
Turkish authorities have reported at least 29,605 deaths from the massive earthquake centered in the Gaziantep region.
Across the border in northern Syria, the United Nations humanitarian office said Monday the death toll there had topped 4,300, with another 7,600 injured.
International search and rescue teams as well as medical and other aid have poured into Turkey since the earthquake hit in the early morning hours of February 6.
Getting aid into earthquake-hit parts of Syria has been a bigger challenge, with outside deliveries restricted to a single crossing at the Turkey-Syria border. Shipments from government-controlled areas to rebel-held areas have been held up amid negotiations with the various parties to allow humanitarian access.
“We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths tweeted Sunday as he visited the region. “They rightly feel abandoned.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the U.N. Security Council to immediately vote on a resolution to authorize additional border crossings to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria.
“Right now, every hour matters,” she said in a statement late Sunday. “We have heard the calls from UN leadership that the Security Council needs to authorize two additional crossings to help deliver lifesaving aid to people in the northwest of Syria. People in the affected areas are counting on us. They are appealing to our common humanity to help in their moment of need.”
Turkey is targeting 134 contractors and others for alleged shoddy and illegal construction methods.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag has vowed to punish anyone responsible for the collapse of thousands of buildings. He said Sunday that to date three people had been arrested pending trial, seven people detained and seven others barred from leaving the country.
Prosecutors have begun gathering samples of buildings for evidence of the materials that were used in their construction. The quakes were powerful, but victims and technical experts are blaming bad construction – and lax enforcement of building codes — for worsening the devastation.
Two contractors reportedly attempting to leave the country for Georgia were detained by authorities Sunday at Istanbul Airport. The contractors were held responsible for the alleged shoddy construction of several collapsed buildings in Adiyaman, the private DHA news agency and other media reported.
One of the arrested contractors, Yavuz Karakus, told reporters, “My conscience is clear. I built 44 buildings. Four of them were demolished. I did everything according to the rules,” DHA reported.
Two more people were arrested in Gaziantep province suspected of having cut down columns to make extra room in a building that collapsed, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The VOA Turkish Service contributed to this report, which includes some information from The Associated Press.