People talk in front of the rubble of buildings destroyed by an earthquake in the Turkish city of Hatay on February 11, 2023.
Ankara/Damascus/Adiyaman (Turkey)/Prague – Monday's devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria claimed more than 28,000 lives. The number of known victims of the disaster exceeded that mark after Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay announced this evening that the death toll in his country had risen to 24,617, according to Reuters. So far, 3,553 deaths have been reported from neighboring Syria. Today, the agencies did not offer new data from the government or the opposition, which controls parts of the divided country. Czech rescuers in the Turkish city of Adiyaman have rescued 12 more victims of Monday's earthquake from the rubble since Friday. So far, they have recovered 32 bodies from the wreckage. Austrian rescuers have resumed rescue work, they are under the protection of the Turkish army.
Photo Gallery: Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier today updated the toll in his country first to 21,848 victims and a few hours later to 22,327 dead. According to Erdogan, the “catastrophe of the century” affected an area with a diameter of 500 kilometers, in which 13.5 million people live in Turkey alone.
Even five days after the tremors, rescuers continued to find survivors in the ruins of the cities, Turkish media reported, according to the AP agency. In Nurdag, west of the regional capital of Gaziantep, a family of five was reportedly found today, having spent 129 hours in their collapsed house. Turkish television broadcast footage from the city of Kahramanmaraş, where rescuers managed to free a family of three, including a twelve-year-old child, from the rubble, who survived 133 hours in the rubble. In the city of Antakya, rescuers pulled a 36-year-old man out of the rubble, writes AP, according to which a total of 12 people were rescued today. However, not all finds end happily, and hopes for more rescues are falling along with the temperatures.
The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) said in a morning report that almost 93,000 people had been evacuated from the affected zone in the south of Turkey. people and that over 166,000 workers are involved in crisis operations. During an afternoon speech in the city of Sanliurfa, Erdogan added that Turkey has over 80,000 wounded.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks mainly hit the south of Turkey, but were also felt by northwest Syria. Even with international cooperation, rescuers are still searching the ruins of houses, while the Czech team also participated in the operations, which rescued two survivors from the rubble of collapsed houses on Friday morning in the city of Adiyaman. The chances of finding more survivors are relatively small, even considering the persistently low temperatures.
In Syria, search and humanitarian operations are complicated by the complex domestic political and security situation. Access to regions under the control of insurgent groups is particularly difficult. Even there, aid in the form of tents and blankets is already on its way, but according to the rescue organization White Helmets, which operates in the areas, it is still completely insufficient. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated on Friday that the earthquake in Syria left up to 5.3 million people homeless.
Czechs rescued another 12 victims of the earthquake
Czech rescuers in the Turkish city of Adiyaman have rescued 12 more victims of Monday's earthquake from the rubble since Friday. Together, they have so far recovered 32 bodies from the wreckage, rescued two survivors and assisted colleagues from another team in rescuing a woman. Today they should end the intervention in the two buildings they have been searching since Tuesday.
“In the city of Adiyaman, roads are mostly passable, electricity and water remain unavailable. The team is in good health,” said the spokesman. In response to the suspended rescue work of the Austrians and Germans, he said that the security situation in the city of Adiyaman is fine and there are no conflicts.
Members of the Czech USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) team specialized in searching for people in the rubble began searching two buildings with an area of approximately 40 by 40 meters in Adiyaman on Tuesday evening. “Today we plan to end the intervention in them. The coordinator will then discuss the further deployment of the team,” said Kozák.
Rescuers are still searching the wreckage of the houses, while the chances of finding survivors are decreasing, also due to the low night temperatures. In Syria, search and humanitarian operations are complicated by the complex domestic political and security situation. Access to regions under the control of insurgent groups is particularly difficult.
In the past, the Czech USAR team abroad helped, for example, in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2020 after an explosion in the port, which claimed the lives of two hundred people and injured another 6,000. The Czech team at that time, together with firefighters, also included cynologists with dogs, a structural engineer or doctor.
Erdogan: Government to take action against looting in earthquake affected areas
The government will crack down on people involved in looting and other crimes in areas affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey this week. According to Reuters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement today during a visit to the affected area. The AFP agency, citing Turkish media, said that 12 people had been arrested in the country in connection with the collapse of the buildings. She later reported on at least 48 detained persons whom the authorities accuse of looting.
“We have declared a state of emergency,” Erdogan said during a visit to the disaster area. “This means that from now on, people involved in looting or kidnapping should know that the firm hand of the law applies to them,” the Turkish president said. However, it was not clear what cases of kidnapping he was referring to, the agencies pointed out.
Thousands of buildings collapsed in southeast Turkey during the earthquake. A businessman from Gaziantep province and 11 businessmen from Şanliurfa province are among those arrested by the authorities in this connection, the Turkish agency DHA said according to AFP. Later, AFP, citing Anadolu Agency, reported the arrest of 50 people in the eight affected provinces in connection with the looting.
Erdogan also said that hundreds of thousands of buildings were uninhabitable in southern Turkey and that the authorities would soon begin the rebuilding process. “We planned to rebuild hundreds of thousands of buildings,” he said. “Within a few weeks, we will start taking concrete steps,” the Turkish president said.
Austrian rescuers in Turkey are under the protection of the Turkish army
This afternoon, Austrian rescuers partially resumed rescue work after Monday's earthquake in Turkey. In the morning, they were forced to cut them short due to fears for their own safety. This is now being looked after by members of the Turkish army. The spokesman of the Austrian Ministry of Defense Michael Bauer informed about this on Twitter. According to him, two dog handlers with their animals started searching for the missing persons again this afternoon.
A total of 82 soldiers from the special unit of the Austrian army have been helping to get the survivors out of the rubble since Tuesday. So far, nine people have managed to dig themselves out of the rubble. They should return to Austria on Thursday.
However, according to Austrian army lieutenant colonel Pierre Kugelweis, the security situation began to deteriorate in the place where they worked. Gunshots were also heard.
The riskiness of the situation is continuously being further evaluated. It is not yet possible to estimate whether all soldiers will soon be able to be deployed again, writes the Kronenzeitung newspaper. According to the military, an Austrian disaster relief unit is still on standby at a camp in the Turkish province of Hatay. Today, Germany also briefly interrupted its rescue service in the area.