At least 33,000 dead, toll set to double after Turkey-Syria quake

At least 33,000 dead, toll set to double after Turkey-Syria quake
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12 February, 2023

At least 33,000 people have been pronounced dead after the earthquakes that devastated Syria and Turkey last week – and the death toll is set to double, taking fatalities to over 50,000, according to UN relief chief Martin Griffiths.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey before dawn on Monday and was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude quake.

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Tens of thousands of rescue workers have been scouring flattened neighbourhoods despite freezing weather that has deepened the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.

Almost 26 million people have been affected by the earthquake, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said as it launched a flash appeal on Saturday for $42.8 million to cope with immediate health needs.

Rescue efforts are still continuing, despite the end of 72-hour rescue window.

6:23 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The UN condemned Sunday what it called a failure to get desperately needed aid to war-torn regions of Syria, while warning that the death toll of over 33,000 from an earthquake that also devastated Turkey could double.

A UN convoy with supplies for northwest Syria arrived via Turkey, but the agency's relief chief Martin Griffiths said much more was needed for millions whose homes were destroyed.

"We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn't arrived," Griffiths said on Twitter.

Supplies have been slow to arrive in Syria, where years of conflict have ravaged the healthcare system, and parts of the country remain under the control of rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is under Western sanctions.

The UN convoy of ten trucks crossed into northwest Syria via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to an AFP correspondent, carrying shelter kits including plastic sheeting, ropes and screws and nails, as well as blankets, mattresses and carpets.

Bab al-Hawa is the only point for international aid to reach people in rebel-held areas of Syria after nearly 12 years of civil war, after other crossings were closed under pressure from China and Russia.

4:35 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Syria's 'White Helmets' volunteers say they are answering 'all calls' for help, six days after a devastating series of earthquakes struck Syria and Turkey.

"We have been working for five days," Abdel Qader Abdelrahman told Reuters, having not returned home or seen his family in that long. "We are answering all the calls for help."

"When we remove someone alive, we forget all the pain and the fatigue and everything that is happening to us... Our goal is to save people from this destruction."

The former school principal joined the White Helmets in 2022 as a medic, but last week's quake forced him to take on a more direct search and rescue role.

4:14 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The death toll from a catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria climbed to 33,000 on Sunday, with the United Nations warning that the final number may double.

Officials and medics said 29,605 people had died in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria from Monday's 7.8-magnitude tremor, bringing the confirmed total to 33,179.

4:23 PM
The New Arab Staff

A senior UN official's visit to the only border crossing for humanitarian aid into earthquake-struck northwest Syria on Sunday is "too little, too late", a rescue group has said.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths visited the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, where he met White Helmets head Raed al-Saleh, according to a press release from the Syria Campaign advocacy group.

Al-Saleh met Griffiths at the crossing between Turkey and Syria's Idlib province to "demand" more cross-border routes are opened without waiting for UN Security Council authorisation, the press release said.

"Since the moment the earthquake struck seven days ago we have been appealing to the UN to send urgent assistance to aid our rescue operations in northwest Syria," al-Saleh said.

"For days these calls went unheeded and during this time countless lives have been needlessly lost. This visit is too little, too late.

"The UN's failure to act quickly to save Syrian lives in the face of a humanitarian catastrophe is utterly shameful and should be a stain on its conscience."

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White helmet rescue workers embrace as they continue search operations [Getty]
1:26 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias visited the earthquake-stricken areas of Turkey Sunday, accompanied by his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The visit was part of a new round of so-called “earthquake diplomacy” between the two uneasy allies, whose relations have often been frosty, if not downright hostile. Something similar happened in 1999, three years after the two countries almost went to war over two uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea.

In August 1999, a 7.6 magnitude tremor had struck Turkey, resulting in about 18,000 dead; the following month, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Greek, capital, Athens, killing 143 people.

In both cases, the two countries sent rescuers to assist in each other's efforts. The warming of bilateral relations had been widely covered in the international media.

12:18 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Earthquake aid from regime-held parts of Syria into territory controlled by hardline opposition groups has been held up by approval issues with Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a United Nations spokesperson told Reuters on Sunday.

The Syrian regime last week said it was willing to send aid into the northern zone, which is largely held by the hardline Islamist HTS and was devastated by Monday's earthquake.

A spokesperson for the UN's humanitarian aid office told Reuters "there are issues with approval" by HTS, without giving further information.

A UN spokesperson in Damascus declined to comment, saying the UN "continues to work with relevant parties to have access to the area."

There was no immediate response from the HTS media office to a request for comment.

11:20 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The impact of last week's earthquake on Turkey's growth domestic product (GDP) is unlikely to be as pronounced as after the earthquake that hit the country in 1999, IMF Executive Director Mahmoud Mohieldin told reporters on the sidelines of the Arab Fiscal Forum on Sunday.

Mohieldin added that, after the initial impact over the next few months, public and private sector investments in rebuilding could boost GDP growth going forward.

11:01 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The European Union's envoy to Syria said early on Sunday that it was not fair to accuse the group of failing to provide enough help to Syrians following the earthquake that devastated large parts of Syria and Turkey last week.

Dan Stoenescu told Reuters the bloc and its member states have gathered more than 50 million euros to provide aid and back rescue missions and first aid in both government-held and rebel-controlled parts of Syria.

"It is absolutely unfair to be accused of not providing aid, when actually we have constantly been doing exactly that for over a decade and we are doing so much more even during the earthquake crisis," Stoenescu said in written comments.

More than 3,500 people died in the earthquake in Syria, where a 12-year conflict had already left hundreds of thousands dead and forced millions into displacement within the country and beyond its borders.

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10:56 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Six days after a pair of earthquakes devastated southeast Turkey and northern Syria, Turkish officials detained or issued arrest warrants for some 130 people allegedly involved in the construction of buildings that toppled down and crushed their occupants.

The death toll from Monday’s quakes stood at 28,191 — with another 80,000-plus injured — as of Sunday morning and was certain to rise as bodies kept emerging.

As despair also bred rage at the agonizingly slow rescue efforts, the focus turned to who was to blame for not better preparing people in the earthquake-prone region that includes an area of Syria that was already suffering from years of civil war.

Even though Turkey has, on paper, construction codes that meet current earthquake-engineering standards, they are too rarely enforced, explaining why thousands of buildings slumped onto their side or fell downward onto residents.

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10:35 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Germany will grant three-month visas to Turkish and Syrian earthquake victims with family in the country, the interior minister said on Saturday.

"This is emergency aid," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told daily newspaper Bild.

"We want to allow Turkish or Syrian families in Germany to bring their close relatives from the disaster area to their homes without bureaucracy."

The deadly earthquake has killed over 25,000 people.

Faeser said that those eligible can have "regular visas, issued quickly and valid for three months".

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10:15 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The death toll from a massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria will "double or more" from its current level of 28,000, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths has said.


He said of the death toll in an interview with Sky News on Saturday: "I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble but I'm sure it will double or more."

"We haven't really begun to count the number of dead," he said.

Officials and medics said 24,617 people were killed in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria. The confirmed total now stands at 28,191.



The New Arab Staff
The New Arab Staff & Agencies