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Rescuers carry Fatima, a 15 year old, after being rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in Hatay, Turkey, on February 14, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

ANKARA: A 42-year-old woman was rescued from the rubble of a building in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras on Wednesday, almost 222 hours after a devastating earthquake struck the region, Turkish media reported.

TV footage showed rescue workers carrying the woman, named Melike Imamoglu, strapped onto a stretcher, to an ambulance..

On Tuesday, nine survivors were rescued from the rubble in Turkey, more than a week after the earthquake, as the focus of the aid effort shifted to helping people now struggling without shelter or enough food in the bitter cold, Reuters reported.

The disaster, with a combined death toll in Turkey and neighbouring Syria exceeding 41,000, has ravaged cities in both countries, leaving many survivors homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures.

Those rescued on Tuesday included two brothers, aged 17 and 21, pulled from an apartment block in Kahramanmaras province, and a Syrian man and young woman in Antakya rescued after over 200 hours in the rubble. There could be further people alive still to find, said one rescuer.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to press on with rescue and recovery efforts.

Many survivors are enduring near-freezing winter temperatures, having been left homeless by the devastation in cities in both countries.

“We will continue our work until we remove the last citizen left under the collapsed buildings,” Erdogan said late on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting held at the headquarters of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

Mass exodus

Damage assessment of buildings, of which tens of thousands were destroyed, will be completed in a week and reconstruction will begin within months, he said.

“We will rebuild all the houses and workplaces, destroyed or made uninhabitable by the earthquake, and hand them over to the rightful owners,” he added. More than 105,000 people were injured in the quake, he said, with more than 13,000 still being treated in hospital.

“We are facing one of the greatest natural disasters not only in our country but also in the history of humanity,” Erdogan said.

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More than 2.2 million people have left the worst-hit areas already, Erdogan said, and hundreds of thousands of buildings have become uninhabitable.

UN authorities have said the rescue phase is coming to a close, with the focus turning to shelter, food and schooling.

“People are suffering a lot. We applied to receive a tent, aid, or something, but up to now we didn’t receive anything,” said Hassan Saimoua, a refugee staying with his family in a playground in Turkey’s southeastern city of Gaziantep.

The search for survivors was about to end in the north west of Syria, said the head of the White Helmets main rescue group, Raed al Saleh.

Russia also said it was wrapping up its search and rescue work in Turkey and Syria and preparing to withdraw.

The Turkish toll was 35,418 killed, Erdogan said. More than 5,814 have died in Syria, according to a Reuters tally of reports from Syrian state media and a U.N. agency.

Survivors joined a mass exodus from disaster zone, leaving their homes and unsure if they can ever come back.

Hamza Bekry, a 22-year-old Syrian has lived in Antakya, in southern Turkey, for 12 years, having fled the conflict in his homeland, but he was now preparing to follow his family to Isparta in southern Turkey.

“It’s very hard ... We will start from zero, without belongings, without a job,” Bekry said.