Babies pulled from rubble ‘renew hopes’ after being flown to safety on president’s plane

Babies who were found alone in the aftermath of the earthquake which has killed thousands in Turkey and Syria have been flown to the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Moving pictures posted on government Twitter accounts showed the 16 infants in the arms of rescuers huddled together on board President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plane.

Turkey’s families minister, Derya Yanik, said the children were safely transported from the city of Kahramanmara and are in “very good” health.

First Lady Emine Erdogan also tweeted images of the babies on board the presidential plane.

Turkey earthquake – latest: Erdogan admits quake response ‘shortcomings’

She wrote they were “in safe hands” and had “renewed our hopes a little bit”.

Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported the babies were taken to Etlik City Hospital for treatment.

Rescue teams from around the world have travelled to both countries to help search for survivors trapped under the rubble following Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake.

Serdar Ozsoy, a photojournalist, told Arab News: “The first day was critical to find survivors under the collapsed buildings. But now the chances to rescue people are diminishing, apart from miracle cases.”

President Erdogan has said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected, and has declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces.

At least 17,000 people across Turkey and Syria have died.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said fatalities could reach as high as 20,000 in the coming days.

Turkey’s president has admitted there have been “shortcomings” in his country’s response to the earthquake, blaming the wintery conditions and damage to Hatay airport.

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He also hit back at critics, saying “dishonourable people” were spreading “lies and slander” about the government.

“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.”

Mr Erdogan is due to travel on Thursday to the quake-hit provinces of Gaziantep, Osmaniye and Kilis.

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