First UN aid enters northwest Syria from newly-opened crossing, toll continues to rise in Turkey

First UN aid enters northwest Syria from newly-opened crossing, toll continues to rise in Turkey
As hopes of finding people alive under the debris fade more than a week after the quake struck, the focus has switched to providing food and shelter to the vast numbers of survivors.
10 min read
14 February, 2023
Mounir Hassan Khateb, 12, left, and his brother Majid Hassan Khateb, 4, sits in a makeshift tent made by their relatives near the rubbles of their home after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the region in Turkey, 11 February 2023. [Getty]

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Among the rubble, hundreds of thousands of homeless people face cold and hunger as authorities in Turkey and Syria tackle the dire humanitarian disaster caused by the earthquake that has left more than 37,000 dead by the latest count.

As hopes of finding people alive under the debris fade more than a week after the quake struck, the focus has switched to providing food and shelter to the vast numbers of survivors.

A first convoy of UN aid entered rebel-held northwest Syria from Turkey via the newly-opened Bab al-Salameh crossing on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the UN's humanitarian affairs office said.

The aid was being delivered by the International Organization for Migration.

They did not provide details of its size or what kind of aid it was carrying for areas struck by last week's deadly earthquake.

The UN said late Monday night that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - isolated and subject to Western sanctions - had approved the opening of two new border crossings between Turkey and Syria "for an initial period of three months to allow for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid".

He has called for international assistance to help rebuild infrastructure in the war-torn country, where the UN estimates more than five million have been left homeless.

5:52 PM
The New Arab Staff

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5:50 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

President Erdogan says Turkey's earthquakes were "as big as atomic bombs"

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that last week's powerful earthquakes were "as big as atomic bombs" and have killed 35,418 in the country's southern region.

Erdogan also said that hundreds of thousands of buildings were uninhabitable across southern Turkey, adding "any country would face issues we did during such a disaster".

He added that enforcement of stricter building regulations was needed in the country.

Erdogan – facing a wave of criticism - said "collapsed buildings reminded the government of the need for stricter construction rules" in a televised speech, adding that his government would continue work until the last person was rescued from the ruins in the quake-hit area.


4:58 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukrainian rescuers pull woman alive from rubble 8 days after Turkey quake

A woman was rescued from the rubble of a building in the southern Turkish province of Hatay by a Ukrainian team on Tuesday, some 205 hours after a devastating earthquake struck the region, CNN Turk reported.

Her rescue takes the number of survivors pulled from ruins on Tuesday to seven, eight days after one of the worst quakes in the country's modern history.


4:10 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UN appeals for nearly $400 mn for Syria quake victims

The United Nations launched an appeal for $397 million on Tuesday to help earthquake victims in Syria, where the disaster has killed thousands of people and left millions more in desperate need of aid.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, announcing the appeal at the UN headquarters in New York, said the funds would bring "life-saving relief" for nearly five million Syrians and would cover a period of three months.

He added that the world body was in the "final stages" of a similar appeal for Turkey.

Read more here.

4:06 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Nearly 9 million Syrians affected by last week's earthquake: UN

Nearly 9 million people in Syria were affected by last weeks' devastating earthquake that hit both Syria and Turkey, the United Nations said in a statement on Tuesday as it launched a $400 million funding appeal to help the situation there.

"Humanitarian agencies will need $397.6 million to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs over the next three months," the statement added.

Syria was already reeling from a 12-year conflict.


Syria was already reeling from 12 years of conflict [Getty]
3:33 PM
The New Arab Staff

Food prices increase in Syria despite aid flow

Despite tons of food and medical aid being delivered to Syria, prices of basic goods have kept rising, although the regime denies this and insists that certain food items are dropping in price.

Local sources in Damascus, Latakia and Homs reported that costs of all basic food items were in fact increasing due to continuing issues such as the unstable exchange rate, trader manipulation of prices, royalties being imposed by militias and security forces, taxes, and transport costs.

A grocery store owner in Damascus said that only two items had dropped in price for one day, shortly before increasing again. The price of medium-quality sunflower oil had dropped from 18,800 Syrian Pounds to 17,800 three days ago, before rising to 19,000 today. He said the influx of aid wouldn’t affect prices as it wasn’t entering the market anyway - whether it was directed to the needy, or stolen by officials, neither would affect market prices, he said.

This made it illogical that the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection was tying the influx of goods from outside to prices; the reason for high costs were the regime’s policies, he said, adding that the market doesn’t use the exchange rate set by the central bank anyway, which is 4,522 Syrian Pound to the dollar.

The black market rate is currently 6,900 lira to $1.

According to state-run news agency SANA almost 250 tons of food and medical aid had arrived Tuesday, and 87 planes carrying aid had arrived into the Syrian-regime-held areas over the last few days.

Syrians have complained about skyrocketing prices of basic food items [Getty]
2:23 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

First UN team since quake crosses into rebel-held Syria

The first UN delegation to visit rebel-held northwestern Syria since last week's earthquake crossed over from Turkey Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported, as anger simmers at the world body's slow response.

"A multi-agency mission has gone this morning from the Turkey side across the border crossing... It's largely an assessment mission," the World Food Programme's Syria director, Kenn Crossley, told AFP in Geneva.

The delegation comprised deputy regional humanitarian coordinator David Carden and Sanjana Quazi, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Turkey.

Read more here.

The delegation crossed through the Bab al-Hawa crossing [Getty]
12:44 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

A woman rescued from rubble in Turkey 203 hours after quake

A woman was rescued from the rubble of a building in the southern Turkish city of Hatay on Tuesday, some 203 hours after a devastating earthquake struck the region, Turkish media reported.

Earlier reports said the rescued person was a man, but later state broadcaster TRT reported a woman was pulled out from under the rubble in the city.


11:24 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

WHO says Turkey quake Europe's worst natural disaster in 'a century'

The WHO said on Tuesday last week's massive earthquakes, which killed thousands in Turkey and Syria, constituted the "worst natural disaster" in 100 years in what it classified as its European region.

"We are witnessing the worst natural disaster in the WHO European region for a century and we are still learning about its magnitude," Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a press conference.

The WHO's European Region comprises 53 countries, including Turkey. Syria is a member of the WHO's neighbouring Eastern Mediterranean region.

Read more here.

The earthquake has caused widespread destruction across SE Turkey [Getty]
11:05 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

More than 7 million children affected by Turkey-Syria quake: UN

More than seven million children have been affected by the massive earthquake and a major aftershock that devastated Turkey and Syria last week, the United Nations said Tuesday, voicing fear that "many thousands" more had died.

"In Turkey, the total number of children living in the 10 provinces hit by the two earthquakes was 4.6 million children. In Syria, 2.5 million children are affected," James Elder, spokesman for the UN children's agency Unicef, told reporters in Geneva.

Read more here.

Children are seen playing in front of their tent in Hatay, Turkey [Getty]
11:05 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Earthquake death toll in Turkey climbs to 31,974: AFAD

The death toll from powerful earthquakes that struck Turkey last week has risen to 31,974, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said on Tuesday.

It said that nearly 195,962 victims have been evacuated from the quake zone in southern Turkey.


10:04 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

First Saudi aid plane lands in Syria’s regime-held areas: state media

A Saudi aid plane landed at a Syrian airport held by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday in the first such shipment from the kingdom that has backed the armed opposition to Assad during the country's 12-year civil war.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported that the plane carrying 35 tons of food and medical aid and shelter arrived at Aleppo International airport as part of a Saudi humanitarian operation to help Syrians affected by last week's deadly earthquake.

Tuesday's plane was the first of several set to arrive over the next days, a Saudi official said.

Read more here.

This is the first Saudi plane to land in regime-held zones in over a decade [Getty]
9:10 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Rescuers find three more alive in Turkey on 8th day after quake

Rescuers on Tuesday were working to reach people under the rubble in three provinces hit hard by the devastating quakes that hit Turkey and Syria last week.

Turkish television continued broadcasting rescues Tuesday, as experts said the window to find survivors is closing.

In Adiyaman province, rescuers reached 18-year-old Muhammed Cafer Cetin, while two others were rescued from one building that’s been destroyed in central Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter, some 198 hours after the quake.

9:01 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

White Helmets say search efforts for quake survivors in northwest Syria about to end

Search operations for more survivors beneath the rubble are about to end in the opposition north west of Syria eight days after the devastating earthquake, the White Helmets main rescue group said on Tuesday.

"It's about to come to a close. The indications we have are that there are not any (survivors) but we are trying to do our final checks and on all sites," said Raed al Saleh who heads the White Helmets group that has carried out the major rescue operations in the devastated region.

The group, which has rescue workers across the region where whole neighbourhoods and villages were wiped out, said they were also collecting names of the missing people in the enclave where the group's latest death toll stood at 2,274 with thousands injured.


The group said they're doing final checks on all sites [Getty]
8:03 AM
The New Arab Staff

More than a week after the 7.8-magnitude quake toppled buildings across the region, stories continue to emerge of people found alive in the rubble.

But experts warned that hopes of finding more survivors were dimming.

In Turkey on Monday, siblings Harun, eight, and Eyuphan, 15, were rescued 181 hours after the fifth-deadliest earthquake of the 21st century, the Anadolu news agency reported.

A Mexican military rescue dog named Proteo died searching for survivors under the rubble in Turkey.

"You accomplished your mission... thank you for your heroic work," the Mexican military tweeted Monday.

The confirmed death toll stands at 35,331 as officials and medics said 31,643 people had died in Turkey and at least 3,688 in Syria.

The toll has barely changed in Syria for several days and is expected to rise.

8:01 AM
The New Arab Staff

The disaster has also exacted a psychological toll. In a tent city near the quake's epicentre in Kahramanmaras, father-of-four Serkan Tatoglu, 41, described how his family was haunted by their losses as they waited out the aftershocks.

"The youngest, traumatised by the aftershocks, keeps asking: 'Dad, are we going to die?'" Tatoglu said of his six-year-old.

Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay said 574 children pulled from collapsed buildings were found without any surviving parents.

Only 76 had been returned to other family members.

One voluntary psychologist working in a children's support centre in hard-hit Hatay province said numerous parents were frantically looking for missing kids.

"We receive a barrage of calls about missing children," Hatice Goz said by phone.

"But if the child still cannot speak, the family is unable to find them."

8:00 AM
The New Arab Staff

In the devastated Turkish city of Antakya, clean-up teams have been shifting rubble and putting up basic toilets as the telephone network started to come back in parts of the town, an AFP reporter said.

The city was patrolled by police and soldiers deployed to prevent looting following several incidents over the weekend.

"Send any stuff you can because there are millions of people here and they all need to be fed," Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu appealed late Sunday.

In Antakya and Kahramanmaras, food and other aid supplies were flowing in, AFP teams reported.

The economic cost of the disaster could be as much as US$84.1 billion, with nearly US$71 billion of that for housing, the Turkish employers' association Turkonfed said in a report Monday.