Turkey, Syria earthquake search intensifies
ADANA, Turkey (AP) — Rescuers are racing to pull survivors from earthquake rubble before they succumb to cold weather in southern Turkey and war-ravaged northern Syria. As the death toll climbed, despair and anger were growing over the pace of rescue efforts. The Latest on the earthquake:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a message of condolences to Syrian President Bashar Assad over the devastating earthquake that killed thousands in that country and in Turkey.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday that Kim in the message expressed “deep sympathy” and said that Syria under Assad’s leadership would “eradicate the aftermath of the earthquake damage as soon as possible.”
North Korean state media haven’t mentioned any statements by Kim toward Turkey, which sent thousands of troops to South Korea to fight under U.S.-led U.N. forces as they repelled a North Korea invasion during the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea and Syria are the only nations other than Russia to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, as they align with Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
The United Nations says it’s “exploring all avenues” to get supplies to rebel-held northwestern Syria, and it released $25 million from its emergency fund to help kick-start the humanitarian response in Turkey and Syria.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the road leading to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey to northern Syria was damaged, temporarily disrupting aid delivery to the rebel-held northwest. He said the border crossing itself “is actually intact.”
Bab al-Hawa is the only crossing through which U.N. aid is allowed into the area.
Dujarric said the U.N. is preparing a convoy to cross the conflict lines within Syria. But that would likely require a new agreement with President Bashar Assad’s government, which has laid siege to rebel-held areas throughout the civil war.
In Turkey, Dujarric said, Syrian refugees make up more than 1.7 million of the 15 million people inhabiting the 10 provinces impacted by the earthquake.
Rescuers endured freezing temperatures as they worked to pull people from the rubble in Turkey’s particularly hard-hit province of Hatay.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 1,846 people have been rescued in Hatay province as of Tuesday evening. The powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit 10 Turkish provinces on Monday.
Traumatized survivors waited by the wreckage for their loved ones to be rescued and videos showed buildings destroyed across various districts.
Speaking from Hatay, Koca said 1,647 were killed and 6,200 injured in Hatay alone and has suffered the highest casualties among all the affected provinces.
The Turkish government has come under criticism from survivors in Hatay and on social media for not getting adequate rescue teams to the province fast enough.
The presidency’s communications directorate dismissed those criticisms as disinformation late Monday.
Koca said 2,749 buildings has collapsed in Hatay alone and said that number could increase. Nearly 3,000 rescue personnel were there and said the number would double by Wednesday.
Hatay’s airport was closed after the quake destroyed the runway, complicating rescue efforts.
Hatay, which borders Syria and the Mediterranean, has been hit hard by the quake that had its epicenter about 175 kilometers (110 miles) north in Kahramanmaras.
In Syria — including opposition-held areas — the United States Agency for International Development says humanitarian organizations that are partners of the U.S. are already providing emergency assistance to quake victims. That’s according to Stephen Allen, leader of USAID’s disaster response team, who spoke with reporters from Ankara.
For Turkey, Allen said two internationally certified urban search and rescue teams from Fairfax County, Virginia, and Los Angeles County were en route in U.S. military cargo planes.
The Turkish government says its most urgent priority is getting rescue teams into harder-to-reach cities, Allen said. The teams are roughly 80 people each and work with trained search dogs, and would be traveling by road in Turkey.
The U.S. flights were also carrying 100,000 pounds of specialized equipment to cut through concrete and carry out the rough work of extracting trapped survivors.
The Israeli army says its delegation of medics and engineers will depart for Turkey early Wednesday to set up a field hospital to treat victims of the powerful earthquake.
The team will include some 230 people, including military doctors, nurses and paramedics.
The Israeli army said its field hospital will provide assistance using “specialized advanced technology,” without elaborating.
The death toll has soared above 7,200 and is still expected to rise as rescuers dug into buildings flattened by a powerful earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Turkey’s emergency management agency said the total number of deaths in the country had passed 5,400, with some 31,000 people injured.
In Syria, the quake-affected area is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by government forces and borders Turkey.
The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed over 800, with some 1,500 injured, according to the Health Ministry.
At least 1,000 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to the White Helmets, the emergency organization leading rescue operations, with more than 2,400 injured.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected, and he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces.
For the entire quake-hit area, that number could be as high as 23 million people, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergencies officer with the World Health Organization.
The United Nations has released $25 million from its emergency fund to help kick-start the humanitarian response to the earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria.
“As the people in the region deal with the devastating consequences of this tragedy, we want to tell them that they are not alone,” U.N. humanitarian chief and emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths said Tuesday. “The humanitarian community will support them in every step of the way out of this crisis.”
The United Arab Emirates says it will provide $100 million in earthquake relief to Syria and Turkey.
The state-run WAM news agency reported the donation Tuesday. It said the decision came from Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and that the money would be split evenly between the two countries.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry tweeted that a large fire had been extinguished at a section of Iskenderun Port on the Mediterranean Sea, in the city of Iskenderun.
However, the port could still be seen burning in live video from Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk late Tuesday.
The Defense Ministry tweet Tuesday said military helicopters and a plane had helped put out the fire.
Reports said the fire was caused by containers that toppled over during the powerful earthquake that struck southeast Turkey.
The world’s biggest shipping company, Denmark’s A.P. Moeller-Maersk, had said Monday that the earthquake caused “significant damage” at the harbor of Iskenderun and a subsequent fire broke out among containers at the terminal in the evening.
A woman has given birth to a baby girl while buried underneath the ruins of a five-story apartment building in northwest Syria that was leveled by this week’s devastating earthquake, relatives and a doctor said Tuesday.
Rescuers discovered the crying infant and took it to a children’s hospital in the town of Afrin, in Aleppo province, where it is now receiving treatment. Its mother did not survive.
Polish rescuers in Turkey have also pulled a man from the rubble in the town of Besni, where they were deployed early Tuesday.
Poland’s chief firefighter, Brig. Gen. Andrzej Bartkowiak, said on Twitter that the man was the first person saved by the 76 rescuers Poland sent to help with the recovery efforts.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted to say that mine rescue teams would also be sent to Turkey.
“The scale of the tragedy is so great that all help is invaluable,” Morawiecki said.
War-ravaged Ukraine will send an 87-strong search and rescue team to Turkey to “help eliminate the consequences” of the earthquake.
The announcement came in a decree published on the Ukrainian Cabinet office’s website.
Earlier Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a separate decree instructing his Cabinet to “ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to Turkey.”
Jordan, which borders Syria, says it will dispatch planes loaded with search-and-rescue equipment, tents and medical supplies, along with 99 rescuers and five doctors to assist relief efforts in Turkey and Syria.
The country’s royal charity organization says it has been liaising with Syrian and Turkish authorities about the delivery of supplies to meet the countries’ urgent needs.
The Palestinian Authority says 57 Palestinian refugees have died in the powerful quake in Turkey and Syria.
Officials said 14 were killed in Turkey and 43 in Syria, which for decades has hosted nearly half a million Palestinians in large refugee camps and remains one of the few Arab states to offer them full civil rights.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said several Palestinians are reported missing under collapsed buildings in the hard-hit al-Raml camp in western Syria.
A legislator from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and a goalkeeper for Turkish soccer team Yeni Malatyaspor were also killed in the quake.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said search teams found 63-year-old Yakup Tas’ body amid the rubble of his home in the city of Adiyaman. His wife, brother, sister-in-law, a grandchild and two nephews also perished, Anadolu reported.
Second-tier team Yeni Malatyaspor said its goalkeeper Ahmet Eyup Turkaslan had died in the rubble.
Austria said two of its citizens were among those killed. Their bodies were recovered in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras province, the Foreign Ministry said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif set up a relief fund Tuesday for quake-hit Turkey, urging people to donate generously.
The federal Cabinet is donating a month’s salary and all government employees a day’s salary toward the fund.
Sharif told Cabinet members that Turkey stood by Pakistan after unprecedented flooding last year submerged almost a third of the country underwater.
Greece’s Orthodox Church has announced a charity drive and prayer services in support of earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
“We call on the faithful to support our neighbors who are living through this tragedy, to set aside all distinctions of religion and nationality and intensify their prayers to God so that he relieves the pain of those affected by the loss of their relatives,” the Church’s governing Holy Synod said in a statement Tuesday.
The initiative followed a call for help by the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
“We pray that God finds peace for the souls of the victims, and strengthens their families and loved ones in this time of heavy mourning,” Bartholomew said in a message Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 afflicted provinces, which would facilitate management of the emergency response.
In a televised address Tuesday, Erdogan described the earthquake as “unique in the world,” and thanked Qatar for offering 10,000 container homes for people left homeless.
Also Tuesday, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said it was assessing requests for help made through social media postings and relaying the information to rescue teams.
Many people have gone on social media to call for assistance for loved ones believed trapped following the quake that struck Turkey and Syria. There were a few unconfirmed reports of victims requesting help from beneath the rubble.
Meanwhile, 13 people were being investigated for alleged “provocative” social media postings concerning the earthquake that authorities said aimed to foment “fear and panic,” news reports said.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi phoned Syria’s leader Bashar Assad Tuesday, offering condolences for earthquake victims.
It was the first call between the two leaders in over a decade.
According to a Egyptian presidency statement, el-Sissi said his government would send humanitarian aid to Syria.
Armenia’s foreign minister says his country has offered to help Syria and Turkey in their response to the deadly quake, despite difficult relations between Yerevan and Ankara.
Ararat Mirzoyan told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that Armenia is prepared to send aid goods and rescue teams to both countries, but didn’t immediately say whether the offers had been accepted.
Mirzoyan recalled that Armenia experienced a devastating earthquake itself in 1988 and required international assistance at the time.
Greece, which also has strained ties with neighbor Turkey, sent a team of rescuers and aid equipment Monday, and promised to provide more.
“I believe I speak for all my colleagues in the Greek parliament in expressing my deepest sorrow for the many victims of the very powerful earthquakes that have been hitting Turkey since yesterday morning,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Tuesday, addressing lawmakers who applauded when he announced additional assistance was being prepared.
The European Union says 19 member countries have now offered support to Turkey after the activation of the bloc’s civil protection mechanism by Istanbul. The countries were listed as Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Non-EU members Albania and Montenegro are coordinating with the EU and Turkey and have also offered rescue teams in the aftermath of the earthquake, the EU said. The European Commission said 25 search and rescue teams are being deployed “to the hardest hit areas,” 11 of them having already reached Turkey.
The United Nations’ cultural agency says it has undertaken a preliminary survey of damage to heritage sites in the earthquake-hit areas, with an aim to help rapidly secure and stabilize them. The Paris-based UNESCO is “particularly concerned about the situation in the ancient city of Aleppo” in Syria, which is on the list of endangered World Heritage.
“Significant damage has been noted in the citadel. The western tower of the old city wall has collapsed and several buildings in the souks have been weakened,” the statement said.
In Turkey, UNESCO said it was saddened by the news of the collapse of several buildings at the Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens, a World Heritage site which goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times.
China will provide 6 million dollars in aid to Turkey, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, and also deploy “heavy urban rescue teams and medical teams and providing relief materials urgently needed by the Turkish side.
“We are coordinating the provision of urgently needed relief supplies to Syria and speeding up the implementation of ongoing food aid projects,” she said.
Mao told reporters on Tuesday that President Xi Jinping “sent a condolence message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad, mourning over the victims and expressing sincere sympathy to the families of the victims and the injured.”
She did not say when the Chinese rescue teams would head for Turkey.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the Palestinian Authority will dispatch two humanitarian missions to assist in Syria and Turkey.
The aid missions will include civil defense and medical teams, government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said.
A 55-member team is also expected in Turkey from Libya. The government of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah in the capital of Tripoli said the team would include rescuers, medical members along with four dogs to participate in the ongoing search and rescue efforts.
And Spanish medical workers will set up a field hospital in Turkey to treat the wounded, Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, said Tuesday. Spain has mobilized troops and drones from the country’s Military Emergency Unit to Malatya airport, where the Turkish authorities have installed an international aid center.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay says some 3,294 search and rescue teams from 14 countries have arrived so far to join in the efforts. The teams were being transferred to the worst-hit provinces of Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Adiyaman, he said.
He listed the countries sending teams as the Czech Republic, France, Malta, the Netherlands, India, Poland, Algeria, Italy, Moldova, Albania, Israel, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Germany, Serbia, Slovakia, Qatar, Britain and Russia.
Around 380,000 survivors were currently being sheltered in government dormitories or hotels, the vice president said.
Oktay said the country had made “serious headway” in providing cranes to the quake-stricken areas to assist the rescue efforts, adding that more than 500 heavy equipment were sent.
The head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Khaled Hboubati, is urging the United States and the European Union to lift years-old sanctions imposed on Syria saying the country is in bad need for help following the earthquake.
“I call on for the lifting of sanctions on Syria. This is the most important thing for us,” Hboubati told a news conference Damascus, highlighting the need for construction machinery for the rescue effort.
Sanctions by the United States, the European Union and some Arab countries have been in place since 2011, after President Bashar Assad’s government cracked down on protests against his rule.
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total number of deaths in Turkey had risen to 3,419, with another 20,534 people injured. That brought the number of people killed to 5,021, with another 1,602 people confirmed dead on the Syrian side of the border.
The earthquake struck early Monday morning, bringing down thousands of buildings. Rescuers were racing frantically to find more survivors but their efforts were being impeded by temperatures below freezing and some 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.
Turkish government officials earlier said some 13.5 million people were living in quake-damaged areas and that some progress had been made in restoring power and re-opening highways in the disaster affected areas.
In Istanbul, meanwhile, thousands of aid volunteers flocked to the city’s main airport offering to participate in the search and rescue efforts. People across Turkey have also rushed to hospitals offering to donate blood. ___
The head of the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency is sending three chartered flights of medical supplies, including surgical trauma kits, to both Turkey and Syria from its logistics hub in Dubai.
Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the WHO’s executive board in Geneva on Tuesday that “we’re especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information,” without specifying where those are. He said that “damage mapping is ongoing to understand where we need to focus our attention.”
The agency’s emergencies chief, Dr. Mike Ryan, said that “the scale of this disaster is going to require a sustained response and the secondary impacts of this disaster are going to also going to go on for months and months, especially for those people already affected, already vulnerable for many other reasons in the region, and especially in Syria.”
Monday’s earthquake affected both government- and opposition-held areas in Syria.
WHO’s country representative in Turkey, Batyr Berdyklychev, said the U.N. agency’s field office in Gaziantep, Turkey – which has been providing cross-border operations into parts of Syria – on Monday moved trauma, emergency and surgical supplies to 16 hospitals in northwestern Syria.
Turkey has deployed more than 24,400 search and rescue personnel to the quake area.
The number was expected to rise with the arrival of additional personnel though the wintry conditions were hampering their deployment, disaster management agency official Orhan Tatar said.
“The adverse weather conditions continue in the region. Therefore, from time to time it may be difficult to transport these search and rescue teams to the region,” he said.
Temperatures overnight in the quake-hit city of Gaziantep sank to -5 C (23 F).
Tatar said 10 ships were helping the rescue efforts, by transporting the wounded to hospitals, mainly from the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.
About 55 helicopters had conducted 154 sorties to transport emergency aid and around 85 trucks were distributing food, he said.
Tatar said his agency had received 11,342 reports of collapsed buildings, but only 5,775 of those reports have been confirmed.
The medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders says a staff member has been found dead under the rubble of his house in Syria’s Idlib province following the powerful earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey.
The group says other members of the organization also lost families.
“We are very shocked and saddened by the impact of this disaster on the thousands of people touched by it, including our colleagues and their families,” said Sebastien Gay, the group’s head of mission in Syria.
Gay said health facilities in northern Syria were overwhelmed with medical personnel working around the clock to respond to the huge numbers of injured.
The quake-damaged area in Syria is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by government forces and borders Turkey.
Gay said the needs are very high in northwestern Syria, where the earthquake added a dramatic layer for vulnerable people who are still struggling after many years of war. “The massive consequences of this disaster will require a (scaled up) international aid effort,” he said.