In Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, on February 13, 2023, after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the border region between Turkey and Syria. OZAN KOSE / AFP
35,224 people have died from the violent earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on February 6, according to the latest official figures released on Monday, February 13. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed 31,643 people in southern Turkey, Turkey’s public disaster management agency AFAD said on Monday, while authorities in Syria counted 3,581 dead. The UN said on Sunday that the global death toll could “double”.
Rescuers have miraculously recovered new survivors from the rubble in southern Turkey. These rescues are unexpected as they occurred well beyond the crucial seventy-two hour period following the disaster. According to press reports, seven people were released alive in Turkey during the night from Sunday to Monday, including a three-year-old child in Kahramanmaras and a 60-year-old woman in Besni. Another, 40-year-old, was also rescued after 170 hours in Gaziantep.
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400,000 people evacuated
A total of 34,717 people are still working to search for survivors in the affected areas in southern Turkey. According to Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay, who spoke to local press at AFAD’s premises, around 1.2 million people were placed in student dormitories and 400,000 were evacuated from the region.
In Antakya, the Antioch of ancient Greece, after the first three or four days of abandonment, help is now being organized. To the great relief of the survivors, simple toilets without water were installed. Telephone service has been restored in several counties. A heavy police and military presence is now visible in Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the earthquake. According to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, 30,000 tents have been set up, while 48,000 people are housed in schools and 11,500 in sports halls.
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Bashar Al-Assad is ready to consider opening new border crossings
In Syria, the situation is particularly complex and humanitarian organizations are particularly concerned about the spread of cholera, which has reemerged in the country. “So far we have failed the people of north-west Syria,” admitted UN agency head Martin Griffiths. “They rightly feel that they have been let down” and it is important “to correct this omission as quickly as possible,” the diplomat said.
Bab Al-Hawa in the north-west of the country remains the only operational border crossing from Turkey to rebel-held areas also devastated by the earthquake. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday. He assured that the latter was willing to consider opening new border crossings to bring aid into rebel areas.
According to a Syrian Ministry of Transport official, Suleiman Khalil, 62 planes loaded with aid have landed in Syria so far. More are expected in the coming hours and days, particularly from Saudi Arabia.
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Uncertainties about the holding of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections
The holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in May seems uncertain. The earthquake has already forced the opposition coalition to delay announcing the name of its candidate. This should have taken place on Monday. Elections in May seem unlikely to experts. They plan to take place in June, the latest possible date when the Turkish constitution will be respected, because its postponement is theoretically possible only in the event of war, they recall.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not said a word about the May 14 elections scheduled for May 14 since the disaster, but speculation about their possible postponement is progressing well within his party, the AKP, and opposition parties. The earthquake “will be a turning point not only for the government but also for the opposition,” said Berk Esen of Istanbul’s Sabanci University.
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Even before the earthquake, many doubted the ability of the opposition, largely united in a six-party National Alliance, to announce their joint candidate on Monday. Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition formation, wants to run against Mr Erdogan, but one of the coalition’s main figures, Meral Aksener, the founder of the Good Party, a nationalist and secular party, opposed his, according to some observers Candidacy. “The opposition was already in a very delicate position” because it was divided over the personality capable of challenging Mr Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, Mr Esen recalled.
At 74, Mr Kiliçdaroglu does not appear in the polls as the best place to beat the outgoing head of state, especially when compared to CHP mayors of the capital Ankara, Mansur Yavas, and Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu.