The devastating earthquakes that hit northern Syria and southern Turkey on Monday have soared over 21,000 lives, with a higher number of casualties expected as rescue efforts comb through the debris of the collapsed buildings. On Thursday night, Turkey’s disaster agency updated the official death toll to exceed 18,000, while it is estimated that around 3500 people have perished in neighboring Syria.
The number of fatalities caused by the earthquakes that hit northern Syria & the southwest of Turkey has reached above 21,000. It is expected to increase as rescue teams search through the destroyed buildings’ debris.#TurkeySyriaEarthquake #syriaearthquake2023 #TurkeyEarthquake pic.twitter.com/XiAvVkFNBY
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) February 10, 2023
As the probability of discovering survivors dwindles after 72 hours have passed since the earthquakes, rescue teams in Adana, Turkey, were able to extract a 45-year-old man, Akgun Eker, from the debris alive. Previously, two young boys in Turkey were rescued from fallen buildings: a two-year-old in Antakya and an eight-year-old in Diyarbakir. Both boys were trapped beneath the rubble for nearly 80 hours before being found.
While the rescue operations continued, many survivors were evacuated from the cities in Turkey that were hardest hit by the earthquakes. At the same time, residents in Syrian towns assisted in giving a proper burial to those who lost their lives in the quake.
Internal Aid to Syria
On Thursday, three and a half days after the earthquakes, the initial shipment of aid supplies arrived in northwest Syria, consisting of six trucks from the United Nations. The delivery of humanitarian aid was briefly impeded after the initial quake struck early Monday morning due to logistical difficulties and the destruction of the road linking Gaziantep, Turkey, to the UN transshipment center in Hatay, Turkey. However, human rights organizations strongly disapproved of the delivery’s timing and contents.
Rami Abdul Rahman, the founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an observer of the violence in Syria since 2011, criticized the United Nations for sending six aid trucks already en route to northwest Syria before the earthquakes. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for increased access to aid in northwestern Syria from Turkey and sought extended authorization from the UN Security Council to allow the UN to assist with multiple border crossings. Currently, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing is the only feasible route for UN aid.
UN mediator on Syria, Geir Pedersen, appealed to the Syrian government not to hinder the delivery of relief supplies to areas affected by the earthquakes that are outside of government control. As the need for more aid in Syria increases, several Western nations pledged to enhance the humanitarian aid they provide to the war-torn Middle Eastern country, which has been grappling with civil war since 2011.
Germany committed to providing an additional 26 million euros ($28 million) to Syria, France promised 12 million euros (approximately $13 million) in immediate aid, and the United Kingdom declared that it would offer an additional three million pounds ($3.64 million) for search and rescue efforts and emergency aid in Syria.
Deadly Disaster of the Century
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a state of emergency Tuesday to hasten search and rescue operations. After a vote in the Turkish parliament, a three-month state of emergency was put into effect in the ten earthquake-stricken provinces in southern Turkey. As he monitored the rescue efforts and met with earthquake victims in the province of Osmaniye, Erdogan stated that the earthquakes caused significant damage and could be considered the century’s disaster.
According to President Erdogan, hundreds of thousands of people are participating in the relief efforts, with various teams and vehicles being dispatched to the affected region from all over the country. The World Bank has pledged $1.78 billion in aid for Turkey to support the recovery and relief efforts. Additionally, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with his Turkish counterpart to determine ways for the United States to provide further assistance to Turkey and Syria.
First UN Relief Mission Reaches Northwest Syria After Earthquake
The United Nations has announced that the initial aid convoy has arrived in northwest Syria following the Monday earthquake. The UN stated that six trucks carrying crucial supplies, such as blankets and hygiene kits, have reached the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, the only entry point approved by the UN Security Council to deliver aid. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) specified that the trucks contained “shelter items and non-food item kits.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed that the first aid convoy from the UN since Monday’s earthquake has arrived in northwestern Syria from Turkey. The convoy consisted of six trucks carrying items for the shelter and non-food items, including blankets and hygiene kits. It reached the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, the only entry point authorized by the UN Security Council for aid delivery. Sanjana Quazi, the head of OCHA in Turkey, expressed relief at the arrival of the aid and stated that this is the only scalable channel of support, and they hope the operation continues. In the future, convoys will be sent with different types of aid provided by various UN agencies, such as medical supplies and food items.
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