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Turkiye quake death toll nears 41,000 as rescue close to end

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ISTANBUL: The total number of people in Turkiye killed in the devastating earthquake has reached 40,689, the disaster authority AFAD said on Sunday.

Search and rescue efforts in nine quake-hit provinces have ended,except Kahramanmaras and Hatay, AFAD Chairman Yunus Sezer told reporters in Ankara.

More than 1.2 million people are believed to have evacuated the south-eastern Turkiye disaster zone. Over 1 million locals currently reside in temporary shelters in quake-hit provinces, AFAD’s Sezer said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Turkiye on Sunday to show support to the earthquake-hit country and Nato ally which has had tumultuous ties with Washington.

His visit comes after a 7.8-magnitude tremor hit southeastern Turkiye and northern Syria killing nearly 45,000 people but his trip had been planned before the disaster. It is his first visit to Turkiye since he took office more than two years ago.

The top US diplomat arrived at Incirlik air base in southern Turkiye through which the United States has shipped aid after the worst natural disaster to hit the region in more than a century. He will meet officials coordinating the delivery of US aid and see the humanitarian effort under way in Hatay, one of the worst affected Turkish provinces.

The United States has sent rescue teams and contributed an initial $85 million in relief for Turkiye and Syria, deploying helicopters to bring supplies to worst-hit areas.

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 visited Ankara late on Sunday ahead of talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday where two issues will likely be high on the agenda.

Turkiye wants to buy F-16 fighter jets but the sale is being blocked in Congress due to concerns over Turkiye’s record and threats to Greece.

Blinken will also likely bring up Turkiye’s refusal to ratify Sweden and Finland’s Nato membership applications.

— AFP/dpa

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