The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has claimed over 23,000 lives so far

The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has claimed over 23,000 lives so far

The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has claimed over 23,000 lives so far

Rescue workers with a woman they pulled from the rubble of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, February 9, 2023.

Ankara/Damascus – The death toll after Monday's earthquake in Syria and Turkey exceeded 23,000. Turkish authorities announced this evening that the disaster in the country claimed at least 20,213 victims, Reuters wrote. On the other side of the border, according to the official balance sheets of the Syrian government and the opposition, there are 3,553 dead.

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Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have claimed over 23,000 lives so far

Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have claimed over 23,000 lives so far

The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has claimed over 23,000 lives so far

Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have so far claimed over 23,000 lives

The death toll is expected to continue to rise as rescuers pull more bodies from the rubble of collapsed houses. There is little hope of saving the living, even today several people were rescued. After about 110 hours, Lebanese and Syrian rescuers today pulled a woman and a child out of the rubble in the Syrian city of Jabla, Reuters wrote, and the media reported about another dozen people rescued this morning.

While in Turkey the death toll exceeded 20,000, in Syria aid is complicated by the complex internal political and security situation. Access to regions under the control of insurgent groups is particularly difficult. Syrian state media reported 1,387 dead in government-controlled areas as of this evening. The opposition organization White Helmets, which operates in regions controlled by the rebels, reported on Twitter today about 2166 dead.

Even four days after the catastrophic earthquake, rescue workers in Turkey are discovering survivors under the rubble of collapsed houses. In the port city of Iskenderun, according to the AP agency, they managed to find six relatives who survived more than 100 hours in the rubble.

In Turkey's Kahramanmaraş province, a mother and daughter were rescued after 92 hours of earthquakes, according to Anadolu Agency. Earlier, a five-year-old girl, Mina, was pulled from the rubble in the same area. “I'm so happy we found her,” said one of the rescuers. In Hatay province, two-year-old Fatima was rescued 88 hours after the earthquake, two hours later a ten-year-old boy and his mother were rescued, and seven-year-old Asya was rescued 95 hours after the earthquake.

This morning in Diyarbakir province, rescue workers found a mother and her son, who even survived 100 hours in the rubble. An hour later, six relatives were found in a collapsed house in Iskenderun, helped by huddling together in the small space left in the rubble. In the morning in the city of Adiyaman, two survivors and the Czech rescuers working there were rescued from the collapsed houses.

There are few stories with a good ending so long after the earthquake. On the other hand, the number of victims in persistent freezing temperatures continues to rise. According to the Turkish Agency for Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD), there are 18,342 of them. Turkish authorities register 74,242 injured this morning. In neighboring Syria, where the devastating earthquake also struck, more than 3,377 people have been found dead so far. At least hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes in the entire region.

The number of victims, according to Reuters, made the earthquake the seventh deadliest natural disaster of this century. It killed more people than the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which also damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Moreover, it is not excluded that the total number of victims will surpass even the earthquake from neighboring Iran, where 26,000 people died in 2003.

The disaster may also affect Turkish parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14. In some affected regions, it will be very difficult to hold a vote, which will be a big challenge for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government is criticized by some residents for being slow to help. Some Turkish media, citing their sources, are writing today that the elections may be postponed to a later date.

Aid from the United Nations began to flow into the second country affected by the earthquake – Syria. But the world organization's efforts are complicated by the long-lasting civil war and the fact that the affected area is in the hands of anti-government rebels. The United States has therefore already called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to immediately allow the flow of aid through all border crossings. According to Reuters, Assad visited the affected area for the first time today when he and his wife arrived at a hospital in the city of Halab (Aleppo).

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the Turkey-Syria border region early Monday morning, causing massive damage along with aftershocks. In Turkey alone, 6,500 buildings have collapsed and many others are damaged. The World Bank wants to provide Ankara with $1.78 billion (CZK 39 billion) to help, of which $780 million (CZK 17 billion) will be available immediately.

Czech rescuers rescued two people alive from the rubble after the earthquake

Czech rescuers in the Turkish city of Adiyaman this morning rescued two survivors from the rubble of houses collapsed after Monday's earthquake. The dog of the Czech cynological group, which is on the spot, helped colleagues from another team find another living woman in the wreckage. Jakub Kozák, the spokesman for the Czech fire department, told journalists. He already stated earlier that the Czech team retrieved 12 more victims of the earthquake from the collapsed houses during the night of today, making a total of 20 bodies so far, including 11 children.

Czechs continue to help other rescue teams with searching for places , where people could remain alive in the rubble. One of these aids was the assistance of a dog from Czech cynologists. “Colleagues from another team rescued a woman from the rubble at 4:00 a.m. who had been 'barked' by the dog Terezka of the Czech cynological group, with which we are conducting the search,” said Kozák, adding that the two survivors rescued from the rubble by the Czech team took local rescuers.

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. Kozák has already stated that one building has floors collapsed on top of each other, the other has collapsed.

“In total, we have already rescued 20 victims from the collapsed buildings, 11 of them were children. Our rapid search team with canines and a slit camera has marked the location with the possibility of survivors in several places, colleagues from other USAR teams in the area are working on the rescue,” said Kozak. The spokesman informed on Thursday about the creation of a small group helping other rescuers. According to him, teams from Algeria, Taiwan, Pakistan and Armenia also have bases in Adiyaman.

The Czech USAR team abroad helped in the past, for example, in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020 after an explosion in the port, which claimed a life two hundred people and injured another 6,000. In the Czech team at that time, together with firefighters, there were cynologists with dogs, a structural engineer and a doctor.

Erdogan admitted that aid after the earthquake is not as fast as he would like

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today admitted that aid after the devastating earthquake is as he would like.

In recent days, both Erdogan and the Turkish authorities have repeatedly faced criticism for insufficiently fast and high-quality aid. Even President Erdogan, who will run for re-election this year, admitted that there is something to this criticism. According to some observers, the dissatisfaction of part of the population with the progress of the authorities after the earthquake may complicate his re-election.

According to the DPA agency, Erdogan also described the earthquake as one of the biggest disasters in the history of Turkey and assured citizens that the state would pay rent for accommodation if they lost a roof over their heads due to the earthquake and did not want to stay in tents in the winter. In a number of Turkish cities, the temperature is below freezing these days at night. For example, in the city of Gaziantep in the south, the country dropped to minus four degrees Celsius overnight.

Trucks with aid are heading to the north of Syria, but much more is needed

To the north of Syria affected by the devastating earthquake, 14 trucks with humanitarian aid have crossed the Syrian-Turkish border today. This was reported by the Reuters agency with reference to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Rescue workers from the White Helmets organization severely criticized the pace of aid to Syria today. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has approved the delivery of humanitarian aid to opposition-held areas.

“The convoy is carrying electric heaters, tents, blankets and other items to help people displaced by the catastrophic earthquake,” IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said. He added that aid is going to the Idlib region.

According to the White Helmets, which operate in regions controlled by the rebels, the aid is still insufficient. The reaction of the UN, which it says should apologize to the Syrian people, was even described by the organization as catastrophic. “We have a huge shortage of equipment and fuel to operate tools, ambulances and cars,” a White Helmets official told the BBC. According to him, there were voices coming from the rubble of houses at the beginning, but they slowly died down and no help arrived.

The area under the control of Syrian rebels, according to the White Helmets, has not received any aid since the earthquake until today, except for six trucks that arrived on Thursday . However, according to the organization, they were part of a convoy that was not related to the earthquake and was only delayed because of it.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program (WFP) warned it was running out of supplies in northwest Syria and called for more border crossings from Turkey to be opened. According to the WFP, around 90 percent of the population in the area now needs humanitarian aid.

The Syrian government said this afternoon that it agrees to provide aid to areas under opposition control. Aid will be distributed in cooperation with the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Syrian state media wrote according to Reuters.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called on Twitter today for an immediate ceasefire in Syria and “full respect for human rights and humanitarian law obligations so that aid reaches everyone”.

According to Reuters, Ankara is considering opening a border crossing to the Syrian area controlled by anti-government rebels and to that under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Only one border crossing between Turkey and the opposition-held part of Syria is now open, and even that was closed for 72 hours after the tremors. Aid has been slow to flow since it opened, partly because of destroyed roads.

Turkey and Syria cut diplomatic ties when Assad began brutally suppressing an uprising against his autocratic rule in 2011. Because of this, millions of people fled the country to neighboring Turkey.

The approach to the Assad regime was also temporarily changed by the United States, which eased sanctions so that humanitarian aid could be sent to Syria. The U.S. Treasury Department has authorized for 180 days all transactions for earthquake relief that would otherwise be prohibited.