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Update: Death toll rises above 44,000 in Turkey-Syria earthquake

The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria rose to more than 44,000 on Saturday, February 18, Turkish authorities have announced.

The head of Turkey’s disaster agency, Yunus Sezer, said rescue operations would be “largely completed” by Sunday night as the number of dead bodies have reduced to a handful as at press time.

State news agency Anadolu initially reported on Saturday that three people were found alive nearly two weeks after the the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit on February 6. But the agency later reported that one of them, a 12-year-old, had died.

Photos showed rescuers placing a man and a woman on stretchers after the married couple and a child spent 296 hours under the rubble in the southeastern Turkish city of Antakya.

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The agency later reported three of their children had died including the 12-year-old.

Teams on Friday pulled four people alive from the rubble, including a 45-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy, in the surrounding Hatay province.

Rescues that were initially met with applause and relief, have in recent days been greeted more soberly.

Officials and medics said that 40,642 people had died in Turkey and 3,688 in Syria from the quake, bringing the confirmed total to 44,330. The toll from Syria has remained unchanged for days.

The quake in one of the world’s most active seismic zones hit populated areas as many slept, in homes that had not been built to resist such powerful tremors.

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