The Turkish Aid Agency (AFAD) and rescuers from the National Medical Relief Team (UMKE) search the rubble of a building in Islahiye near Gaziantep on February 13, 2023. ZEIN AL RIFAI / AFP
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday 14 February that it was the “worst natural disaster in Europe in a century”. “We are still trying to measure the extent,” emphasized the head of the European branch, Hans Kluge, during a press conference.
The death toll is now over 35,000. Amid rubble and debris, hundreds of thousands of homeless people in Turkey and Syria still face hunger and cold, more than a week after the powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the two countries.
The death toll could double, says UN
The number, still preliminary, continues to grow and could even double, according to the United Nations (UN): It totaled 35,331 dead as of Monday night – 31,643 dead in southern Turkey, according to Turkey’s public disaster management agency AFAD, while authorities have counted 3,688 dead in Syria. “72,663 people may have died and 193,399 people may have been injured,” according to a report by the Turkonfed employers’ association published by Turkish media on Monday.
Rays of hope, well beyond the crucial seventy-two hour period following the disaster, new survivors were being recovered from the rubble. According to the press, seven people were saved alive in Turkey during the night from Sunday to Monday, including a 3-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.
UN calls for donations
The UN Secretary-General on Tuesday launched an emergency appeal for nearly $400 million in donations to help those affected by the Syrian earthquake for three months.
“Today I announce that the UN is launching a $397 million humanitarian appeal for people affected by the earthquake that devastated Syria. This will cover a period of three months,” Antonio Guterres told reporters, adding that a similar appeal for Turkey is in the pipeline.
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Hundreds of thousands of survivors are to be accommodated in Turkey
A woman stands in the rubble hoping her loved ones will be found by rescuers February 13, 2023 in Hatay, southern Turkey. BULENT KILIC / AFP
With the chances of finding survivors close to zero, the focus now is to help the hundreds of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake. According to the Turkish government, around 1.2 million people were accommodated in student dormitories, more than 206,000 tents were erected and 400,000 victims were evacuated from the devastated areas.
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, who were deprived of them for several days, basic toilets were installed and telephone service was restored in part of the city.
After several incidents over the weekend, a heavy police and military presence was visible to deter looting. However, many residents justified the raids in supermarkets in the first few days with the absolute emergency in which many were without water, without electricity, without money or open shops.
In addition to extreme material deprivation, there is also psychological stress, which hits the youngest hardest. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said 574 children rescued from the collapsed buildings were found unaccompanied.
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In total, more than 7 million children have been affected by this quake, UNICEF reported Tuesday, which fears several thousand of them have been killed. “In Turkey, a total of 4.6 million children lived in the ten provinces affected by the two earthquakes. In Syria, 2.5 million children are affected,” said James Elder, a spokesman for the organization, during a press conference in Geneva.
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In Syria, two new border crossings with Turkey
Saudi Arabian humanitarian aid packages for victims of the February 6 earthquake are unloaded from an Ilyushin Il-76TD transport plane at Aleppo International Airport in northern Syria, February 14, 2023. – / AFP
For the first time since the deadly earthquake, a UN delegation entered the rebel-held areas of north-west Syria via the Bab Al-Hawa border post with Turkey on Tuesday. “It’s largely a needs assessment mission,” said Kenn Crossley, director of the World Food Program in Syria, in Geneva.
For its part, Syria announced the opening of two new border crossings with Turkey for an initial period of three months to speed up the arrival of humanitarian aid. Before the earthquake, almost all of the aid vital to more than 4 million people living in rebel-held areas in north-west Syria was channeled from Turkey through a single border crossing, that of Bab Al-Hawa.
Calls for the opening of new border crossings between Turkey and northwestern Syria, some areas of which are controlled by the rebellion, had multiplied in recent days. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s decision, which “will allow faster aid deliveries”.
Trucks carrying enough on board to make shelters out of plastic sheeting, as well as blankets, mattresses, rope or even screws and nails, crossed the border on Monday. According to a Syrian Ministry of Transport official, Suleiman Khalil, 62 planes loaded with aid have landed in Syria so far, and more are expected in the coming hours and days.
A Saudi plane loaded with 35 tons of food landed in Aleppo on Tuesday morning, the first plane from Saudi Arabia to reach Syria in more than a decade, according to Khalil. Two more Saudi planes loaded with humanitarian aid are expected on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the same source.