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Toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquake approaches 24,000, aid is trickling in

Toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquake approaches 24,000, aid is trickling in

Toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquake approaches 24,000, aid is trickling in

Toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquake approaches 24,000, aid is trickling in

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  • Many are in critical need of assistance.
  • At least 870,000 people in both nations urgently needed food following the earthquake.
  • 5.3 million people are homeless in Syria alone.
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SYRIA’S BAB-AL-BORDER CROSSING: On Saturday, international help began to arrive in portions of Turkey and Syria, where rescuers worked to remove children from the wreckage in places ravaged by a major earthquake that killed over 24,000 people.

A winter freeze in the impacted areas has hampered rescue attempts and exacerbated the misery of millions of people, many of whom are in critical need of assistance.

According to the UN, at least 870,000 people in both nations urgently needed food following the earthquake, which has left up to 5.3 million people homeless in Syria alone.

Aftershocks from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake have added to the death toll and disrupted the lives of survivors.

“When I see the destroyed buildings, the bodies, it’s not that I can’t see where I’ll be in two or three years – it’s that I can’t imagine where I’ll be tomorrow,” Fidan Turan, a retiree in Turkey’s southern city of Antakya, said, her eyes welling up with tears.

“We’ve lost 60 members of our extended family,” she said. “Sixty! What else can I say? It is the will of God.”

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The United Nations World Food Programme requested $77 million to feed at least 590,000 newly displaced persons in Turkey and 284,000 in Syria.

Humanitarian access

The UN Human Rights Office urged all participants in the affected area, which includes Kurdish militants and Syrian rebels, to enable humanitarian access on Friday.

The banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara and its Western allies consider a terrorist organisation, called a brief cease-fire to facilitate recovery efforts.

Around four million people rely on humanitarian supplies in rebel-held northern Syria, yet there has been no aid delivery from government-controlled areas in three weeks.

The Syrian government announced it has authorized the supply of humanitarian aid to earthquake-affected areas outside of its control.

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Only two assistance convoys have crossed the border this week from Turkey, where authorities are coordinating an even larger disaster relief effort.

A decade of civil conflict and Syrian-Russian aerial bombardment had already damaged hospitals and caused power and water shortages.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to approve the establishment of new cross-border humanitarian aid crossing points between Turkey and Syria. The council will likely meet early next week to discuss Syria.

Turkey announced plans to provide two new routes into rebel-held areas of Syria.

The winter frost has forced thousands of people to spend the night in their cars or huddle around homemade fires that have become common throughout the earthquake-ravaged region.

Anger builds

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Five days of grief and anguish have gradually turned into wrath at the poor quality of buildings and the Turkish government’s response to the country’s worst calamity in nearly a century.

According to officials in the country, the earthquake destroyed or severely damaged 12,141 buildings.

This aerial view shows collapsed buildings during the ongoing rescue operation in Kahramanmaras, the epicentre of the first 7.8-magnitude tremor five days ago, in southeastern Turkey, on February 10, 2023. — AFP/File

“The floors are piling on top of each other,” said Mustafa Erdik, a professor at Istanbul-based Bogazici University, which means the chances of being found alive are slim.

On Friday, police apprehended a contractor who was attempting to flee the country after his building fell in the devastating earthquake.

The tremor was the most intense and deadly since a 7.8-magnitude tremor killed 33,000 people in 1939.

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According to officials and medics, 20,665 people perished in Turkey and 3,553 in Syria. The confirmed total is currently 24,218.

Anger has grown in response to the Turkish government’s handling of the accident, altering the tone of the country’s presidential election campaign ahead of June polls.

“People who didn’t die from the earthquake were left to die in the cold,” Hakan Tanriverdi told in Adiyaman province.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conceded for the first time on Friday that his government was not able to reach and help the victims “as quickly as we had desired”.

Cypriot children

One of the worst disasters involves 24 Cypriot teenagers aged 11 to 14 who were in Turkey for a volleyball event when the quake destroyed their accommodation.

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Rescuers carry out search operations among the rubble of collapsed buildings in Adiyaman, Turkey. — AFP/File

Ten of their bodies were returned to their native country of northern Cyprus.
According to Turkish media, at least 19 people in the group, which included 15 accompanying adults, have already been confirmed dead.

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