Activists criticise UN effort as first aid trucks cross into Syria
Six trucks with aid supplies from the United Nations have crossed into northwest Syria, the first such delivery, but human rights groups sharply criticised their timing and content.
“Shame on the United Nations for sending six trucks with aid which were already coming into northwest Syria before the earthquake took place,” said Rami Abdul Rahman, who has been monitoring violence inside war-torn Syria since 2011 and is the founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“This is a mockery. The trucks had very, very few things,” he stated, adding the cargo could have “fit in one truck”.
Rahman’s group first thought the trucks were to carry mainly blankets and other aid. But when an observatory worker actually looked at the cargo and discovered the supplies included detergent and other items not suitable for earthquake victims, they were outraged.
Turkey’s death toll climbs to at least 16,710: Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s death toll from Monday’s earthquake rose to at least 16,710.
Speaking at a presser in Osmaniye, Turkey, he also stated that there were 64,194 others reported to be injured.
Erdogan also added 6,444 buildings collapsed in the earthquake.
UN aid chief in Turkey, to visit Syria to assess quake needs
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths will visit Gaziantep in Turkey and Aleppo and Damascus in Syria this weekend to assess needs and see how the United Nations can best step up support, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.
Guterres also pushed for more aid access to opposition-controlled northwest Syria.
“Roads are damaged. People are dying. Now is the time to explore all possible avenues to get aid and personnel into all affected areas. We must put people first,” Guterres told reporters in New York.
NATO says assistance to ally Turkey continues
NATO said on Twitter it is continuing to provide assistance to ally Turkey.
“Alliance military transport aircraft are facilitating the rapid movement of essential support to the worst hit earthquake areas,” NATO Air Command announced.
It added that support includes search and rescue teams with dogs, emergency personnel, as well as supplies.
Three-month state of emergency in Turkey enters into force
A three-month state of emergency in southern Turkey’s 10 quake-hit provinces has entered into force after a vote in parliament.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced the three-month state of emergency to speed up search and rescue efforts.
Turkey receives offers of quake aid from nearly 100 countries
Some 95 nations and 16 international organizations have pledged aid to Turkey following this week’s devastating earthquake, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.
At the moment, 6,479 rescue personnel from 56 countries are in the field, Cavusoglu added during a news conference in the capital of Ankara.
“Teams from 19 more countries will be in our country within 24 hours,” he commented.
Global aid has poured into Turkey following Monday’s disaster, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 17,500 people and injured tens of thousands more in the country and neighboring Syria.
Death toll across Turkey and Syria tops 17,500
The death toll from the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria is now at least 17,543, according to authorities.
In Turkey, the death toll has risen to at least 14,351 with 63,794 others reported injured, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay stated Thursday.
The total number of deaths in Syria climbs to 3,192, including 1,930 in rebel-held areas in the northwest according to the ‘White Helmets’ civil defense group, and 1,262 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media.
The total number of injured people in Syria across all affected territories rose to 5,158 – 2,258 in government-controlled and 2,900 in the rebel-held area.
At least 68,952 people have been injured in Syria and Turkey, according to figures from the Turkish government, the White Helmets, and Syrian state media.
Almost 30,000 people have been evacuated from near quake epicenter in Turkey
At least 28,044 people have been evacuated out of Kahramanmaras, the southern Turkish province near the epicenter of Monday’s deadly earthquake.
As of Thursday, at least 23,437 people have been evacuated by air and 4,607 by road and rail, according to Turkey’s disaster management agency, AFAD.
The agency released an advisory Thursday with information on evacuation centers for those who wish to leave the province, adding that accommodations and guest houses are being coordinated by AFAD and province officials.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted to his government’s “shortcomings” amid growing discontent over the state’s response to this week’s disaster, as questions emerge over its preparedness in a country familiar with earthquakes.
Turkey is located over several tectonic plates, although disasters like Monday are not common. But members of the public expressed anger after reports surfaced of entire towns in the country’s north flattened by the powerful tremors.
Recent estimates from the World Health Organization announced up to 23 million people could be affected by the disaster.
Aid chief describes how “incredibly difficult” it is getting aid to Syria
A top aid official told CNN that efforts to help people in quake-stricken regions of Syria have been “incredibly difficult,” as Monday’s deadly disaster compounded years of conflict and an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
“When we needed passable roads, bridges, airports, passage points across border lines the most, they were gone because of the earthquake,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“On top of that, in Syria, this happens in the middle of a conflict zone,” Egeland added.
Egeland stated one of the main issues has been the limited number of border crossings from Turkey into Syria, including the main point which he says has been restricted due to United Nations Security Council sanctions.
“On both sides of this bitter conflict, there has been opposition to cross line(s to provide) frontline aid. I hope all of those political ideas that we have to make it difficult for the other side will be gone now. They all have one common enemy which is this earthquake and the children on both sides should have the relief they need,” he continued.
Egeland told CNN he hopes there will be a lifting of restrictions — either a “peace agreement” or “reconciliation” — to open borders and allow aid to pass into Syria.
He stressed it will take “at least” 10 years to rebuild, emphasizing the importance of children having schools, homes, waterworks and electricity restored.
Death toll in Turkey and Syria from earthquake surpasses 17,000
The death toll from the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday is now at least 17,176, according to authorities.
In Turkey, the death toll has risen to at least 14,014, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated Thursday while visiting impacted areas in the southern city of Gaziantep.
The total number of deaths in Syria stands as at least 3,162, including 1,900 in rebel-held areas in the northwest according to the ‘White Helmets’ civil defense group, and 1,262 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media.
Tens of thousands more have been reported injured in both countries, as rescue workers struggle to locate survivors in the rubble of fallen buildings amid a cold winter blast.
Almost 11 million people in Syria impacted, as fresh snowfall worsens deteriorating situation
A top UN official has said that 10.9 million people have been affected by the disaster in Syria, as new snowfall compounded the humanitarian crisis further.
The number of people who were in need of assistance in the region before the earthquake stood at 15.3 million – but that will now have to be revised, the UN resident coordinator for Syria, El-Mostafa Benlamlih, told a briefing.
In the ancient city of Aleppo alone, 100,000 people are believed to be homeless, with 30,000 currently sheltered in schools and mosques.
“Those are the lucky ones,” he stated.
The remaining 70,000 “have snow, they have cold and they are living in a terrible situation,” he added.
An aid worker distributing supplies across cities in northern Syria told CNN that homeless people have been sleeping in their cars amid a “very, very difficult,” situation.
“Those who are still alive under the rubble might die from the cold weather,” Dr. Mostafa Edo, the country director for MedGlobal, said Thursday.
The assistance in Syria is “nowhere near enough” as the UN called for “urgent” lifesaving aid, the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen said, adding, “We were assured that we will be able to get through the first assistance today, and then there will be more assistance coming.”
WHO warns some of those who lived through quake now face a struggle to survive aftermath
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday stressed the urgency of humanitarian organizations making sure people who survived the earthquake “continue to survive” now.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, the WHO’s incident response manager Robert Holden warned there were “a lot of people” surviving “out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions.”
“We’ve got major disruptions to basic water supplies, we’ve got major disruption to fuel, electricity supplies, communication supplies, the basics of life,” Holden said.
“We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don’t move with the same pace and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue side,” Holden added.
Holden went on to emphasize the importance of ensuring that people had “the basic elements to survive the next period.”
”This is no easy task by any stretch of the imagination,” Holden stated, adding the “scale of the operation is massive.”
“There’s a sense of purpose and a sense of focus. And that focus isn’t just about search and rescue, that focus is about ensuring people continue to survive and have what they need to be able to do so,” Holden concluded.
First aid convoy reaches Syria
An aid convoy has reached northwestern Syria, the first since a devastating earthquake that has killed nearly more than 1,000 people in the the rebel-held area, an official at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing has told Agence France-Presse.
An AFP correspondent reported seeing six trucks passing through the crossing from Turkey carrying tents and hygiene products.
The border official, Mazen Alloush, stated the delivery had been expected before Monday’s quake.
Window to save victims of earthquake in Turkey and Syria is “fast running out”: WHO
The window to save victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria is “fast running out”, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe has said.
Dr Hans Kluge told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that only 22% of people trapped in rubble survive for 72 hours after an earthquake, and the percentage falls rapidly from then on.
“Every minute counts now because the window to save lives is fast running out,” Kluge stated.
“Everyone is working flat out to find and rescue any survivors,” he continued, adding the death toll is likely to “go much higher”.
UN calls for urgent aid to Syria
The United Nation’s special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, has said the country – already ravaged by more than a decade of civil war – urgently needs post-earthquake life-saving aid.
“Syrians need more of absolutely everything,” Pedersen told reporters.
“The earthquake struck as the humanitarian crisis in north-west Syria was already worsening, with needs at their highest levels since the conflict began,” he added.
Aid was needed “urgently, through the fastest, most direct and most effective routes”, the special envoy stated.
“We have seen some aid, but nowhere near enough … Emergency aid must not be politicised. We must instead focus on what is needed,” Pedersen continued.
The first convoy of humanitarian assistance for people in northwest Syria since Monday’s devastating earthquake is en route to the southern Turkish border with the hope of crossing on Thursday, two aid sources have told Reuters.
Death toll from Turkey-Syria earthquakes surpasses 16,000
The death toll from the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday is now at least 16,035, according to authorities.
In Syria, the total number of fatalities is at least 3,162, including 1,900 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the “White Helmets” civil defense group. Some 1,262 deaths have been recorded in government-controlled parts of the country, according to Syrian state media.
In Turkey, the toll has risen to at least 12,873, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) announced on Thursday.
Erdogan will visit more quake-hit cities today
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will on Thursday visit three more areas that were damaged by Monday’s devastating earthquake in southern Turkey, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported.
Erdogan will visit the southern cities of Gaziantep, Osmaniye, and Kilis, located near the border with Syria.
On Wednesday, Erdogan visited an emergency relief center set up by Turkey’s disaster management agency near the epicenter in the district of Pazarcik, as well as relief efforts in the Adana, Hatay, and Kahramanmaras provinces.
Speaking as he visited several disaster zones Wednesday, Erdogan vowed to take “every necessary step” and unite the state and nation so that “we will not leave any citizen unattended.”
Earlier in the day, the president had acknowledged public concern over the government’s response, admitting the state initially “had some problems” at airports and on roads, but insisted the situation was now “under control.”
First aid convoy on its way to northwestern Syria: Report
Two sources told Reuters news agency that a first aid convoy is on its way towards the Turkish border to enter areas in opposition-controlled northwestern Syria.
The hope is for the convoy, which includes six trucks, to cross on Thursday, one of the sources stated.
Aid agencies have warned the toll is likely to rise significantly higher, especially in Syria, as search and rescue teams sift through the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings amid freezing weather conditions, faced with the risk of aftershocks.
China demands end to US sanctions on Syria after deadly quakes
American sanctions targeting Syria have disrupted relief efforts following catastrophic earthquakes, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has announced.
Beijing urged the US to lift the penalties against Syria and “unlock the doors for humanitarian aid.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning was asked to comment on the sanctions during her daily press briefing on Wednesday, noting Washington’s history of intervention in Syria and the grave consequences for average citizens.
“The devastating earthquakes – on top of years of war and turmoil – have left Syria in a terrible humanitarian crisis,” she said, adding that “frequent [US] military strikes and harsh economic sanctions have caused huge civilian casualties and taken away the means to subsistence of the Syrians.”
“In the wake of the catastrophe, the US should put aside geopolitical obsessions and immediately lift the unilateral sanctions on Syria, to unlock the doors for humanitarian aid to Syria,” she continued.