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Turkey-Syria earthquake: Death toll rises, rescues dwindle

February 10, 2023

Rescues provide a glimmer of hope among Turkey and Syrian quake ruins as toll tops 22,000. DW has the latest.

Rescuers and Adnan Mohammet Korkut's mother surround him after he was pulled largely unscathed from beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Gaziantep
Adnan Mohammet Korkut is one of the latest quake survivors pulled from beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in TurkeyImage: IHA via AP/picture alliance

Several survivors were rescued from the rubble of buildings as authorities in Turkey and Syria announced the death toll has surpassed 22,000 after this week's earthquakes.

Despite hopes of finding people alive in the rubble beginning to dim, rescuers continued their search overnight.

A teenager, Adnan Muhammed Korkut, was pulled largely unscathed from beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Gaziantep

The 17-year-old smiled at the crowd of friends and relatives who chanted his name as he was carried out and put onto a stretcher.

"Thank God you arrived,'' he said, embracing his mother and others who leaned down to kiss and hug him as he was being loaded into an ambulance. "Thank you, everyone.''

He had been forced to drink his own urine, "I was able to survive that way,'' he said.

In the Samandag district of Hatay province, a 10-year-old boy was saved with his mother, and in the same area, a seven-year-old girl named Asya Donmez was rescued after 95 hours and taken to hospital.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported about 8,000 people had been rescued from the rubble in Turkey so far.

In Syria, some 3,000 volunteers are searching for survivors.

"Tears of joy and cheers for life. With each case of rescue, we rise again motivated," the rescue organization tweeted late Thursday.

Turkey's Disaster and Management Authority (AFAD) said more than 1,509 aftershocks had been recorded since Monday's 7.8-magnitude quake.

Nations across the globe had sent search and rescue teams, doctors, field hospitals and aid materials to quake-hit regions.

The Foreign Ministry said 95 countries have offered help, and nearly 7,000 rescue personnel had been sent to assist.

But the chances of finding survivors in the freezing temperatures are dimming after what Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described as the "disaster of the century."

Here are other updates on the aftermath of the deadly earthquake on Friday, February 10:

Observers say poor construction as major contributor to Turkey death toll

Critics have said much of the mass devastation in Turkey this week can be traced directly to the country's building laws, more precisely the lax way in which they are applied. "This is a disaster caused by shoddy construction, not by an earthquake," David Alexander, a professor of emergency planning at University College London, told Associated Press (AP).
Turkey's construction boom, as touted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, led to an explosion of building in a country prone to earthquakes. Observers say that although Turkey modernized its building codes after similar natural catastrophes killed tens of thousands of people in the past, it has failed to enforce compliance.

As a result, Eyup Muhcu, president of the Chamber of Architects of Turkey, says many buildings in the areas hit by two massive earthquakes this week — both old and new — were built with inferior materials and methods.

Erdogan's government is accused of ignoring safety concerns for fear compliance with new regulations would be expensive and unpopular, choking a key driver of Turkish economic growth.
Rather than crack down, the government has instead granted amnesty to those in violation of building codes, allowing shoddy houses to "be brought up to code" by paying a small financial penalty. Such amnesties tend to be granted before elections, such as this year's parliamentary and presidential election, which promises to be difficult for Erdogan as inflation soars amid longterm economic downturn.
When the last such amnesty was granted in 2018, the government agency responsible for enforcing Turkey's building codes acknowledged that more than half of all buildings in the country — accounting for some 13 million apartments — were not in compliance with current building codes.
Critics of such actions, like Eyup Muhcu from the Chamber of Architects, say they simply legalize unsafe construction. "We are paying for it with thousands of deaths, the destruction of thousands of buildings… economic loss," as he told AP.

Militant Kurdish PKK suspends fighting to aid relief effort

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant group labeled a terror organization by Ankara and the West, announced Friday that it would temporarily suspend all military activity in earthquake affected areas. 

"Thousands of our people are under the rubble," co-leader Cemil Bayik told PKK-affiliated news agency ANF. Bayik said: "We call on all forces engaged in military actions: stop the military actions in Turkey, in metropolises and cities … until the pain of our people is relieved and their wounds healed."

"Of course," Bayik said, "the attitude of the Turkish state will also be key to our decision."  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the government's fight with the PKK, which has been ongoing since 1984, to stoke anti-Kurdish sentiment, chase PKK fighters across international borders, and actively ban his pro-Kurdish political opponents from holding office. 

Woman rescued after 100 hours under rubble

The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (ISAR), a UN-affiliated network of disaster responders, said a woman in quake-hit Turkey who had been trapped under the rubble for over 100 hours had been rescued by a German team. 

ISAR Germany said the rescue operation lasted more than 50 hours, with responders communicating with the woman through a supply channel and supplying her with water through a hose. 

Steven Bayer, head of operations at ISAR Germany, said she had been stuck under several layers of concrete in the Turkish town of Kirikhan. 

Syrian government approves aid to 'all parts' of the country

The Syrian government said in a statement that it approved the delivery of humanitarian assistance to areas controlled by rebels in the quake-hit northwest of the country. 

"The Council of Ministers approves... the delivery of humanitarian aid to all parts of the Syrian Arab Republic," the Cabinet statement said.

The distribution of aid must take place under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent with UN help, the statement added. 

A UN Security Council mandate, which has been subject to annual renewal since it was established in 2014, has allowed the passage of aid to rebel-held areas through a border crossing with Turkey.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the expansion of the mandate to open more border crossings. 

UN urges 'immediate ceasefire' in Syria to allow aid

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has called for a truce in Syria's civil war to facilitate delivering aid to the victims of the earthquake. 

"At this terrible time in Turkey and Syria, we call for urgent delivery of assistance to ALL in need," the UN rights office said in a tweet. 

"UN human rights chief Volker Turk calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria, and full respect for human rights and humanitarian law obligations so help can reach everyone," it added. 

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war for more than a decade. The bombing of rebel-held areas by the Syrian government and its ally Russia has prompted a dire situation, with hospitals destroyed and widespread electricity, fuel and water shortages.

European football leagues to hold minute's silence

Footballers across Europe will observe a minute's silence for the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria before matches this weekend.

"The world of football offers its support to the victims of the earthquake. We can't be indifferent in the face of such a tragedy," Italy's FIGC president Gabriele Gravina said.

The Premier League, La Liga in Spain, France's Ligue 1 and Germany's Bundesliga will also hold a minute's silence before their matches.

"The Premier League is deeply saddened by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, which have killed thousands of people," the English top flight said in a statement.

"The league will make a £1 million donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Appeal to deliver humanitarian aid directly to those in need," it added. 

Death toll rises to more than 23,000

The death toll from Monday's earthquake on both sides of the border between Turkey and Syria is now more than 22,000.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting quake-hit areas, says the death toll in his country had climbed to 18,991.

According to rescuers and officials, 3,377 people have lost their lives in Syria's government and opposition-held areas.

Erdogan says earthquake response not as fast as it should have been

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conceded that search and rescue efforts after Monday's earthquake were not going as quickly as hoped.

"So many buildings were damaged that, unfortunately, we were not able to speed up our interventions as quickly as we had desired," he said on a visit to the Adıyaman province, which was also hit by the earthquakes.

He said the death toll in the country had climbed to 18,991.

He added that Turkey had now gathered "perhaps the world's largest search and rescue team" comprised of 141,000 across 10 affected provinces.

Erdogan was facing growing criticism from families left frustrated by a slow response from rescue teams.

People with their belongings arrive at the tents, in Kharamanmaras, southeastern Turkey
The Turkish government has distributed millions of hot meals, as well as tents and blankets, but was still struggling to reach many people in needImage: Kamran Jebreili/AP Photo/picture alliance

Germany sending more aid to Turkey

Germany delivered 50 tonnes of relief to Turkey on Thursday, and another three plane loads were headed to quake-stricken areas on Friday.

This will "continue over the next few days," Germany's Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius said during a visit with German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser to the Wunstorf air base.

Another plane loaded with "winter clothing, blankets, food, and hygiene items, which are most urgently needed on the ground," also took off from Frankfurt on Friday, Lufthansa Cargo said.

The aid was collected by Turkish communities living in Germany and Lufthansa Cargo employees.  

Berliners mobilize to aid quake victims

14 aid trucks cross into northwest Syria

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that 14 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had crossed into northern Syria from Turkey.

"These convoys are carrying electric heaters, tents, blankets, and other items to assist these people who have been displaced as a result of this catastrophic earthquake," said spokesperson Paul Dillon, adding that the aid was bound for Idlib.

The aid includes blankets, mattresses, tents, shelter materials, basic relief items, and solar lamps for at least 5,000 people.

Friday's convoy follows a day after the first UN aid convoy arrived in opposition-held northwest Syria on Thursday.

WFP needs more border crossings to deliver aid to Syria

The World Food Programme (WFP) has called  for the opening of more border crossings from Turkey to northwest Syria.

The UN's food agency is running out of stock in the opposition-held area.

"Northwest Syria, where 90% of the population depends on humanitarian assistance, is a big concern. We have reached the people there, but we need to replenish our stocks," Corinne Fleischer, WFP Regional Director in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Eastern Europe, told reporters.

"We are running out of stocks, and we need access to bring new stocks in. The border crossing is open now, but we need to get new border crossings open."

The UN Security Council in 2014 authorized aid deliveries to opposition-held parts of Syria from Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan through four border crossings.

That has shrunk over the years to just one, amid opposition from Russia — a top ally of the Syrian government — which wants aid to come through its capital, Damascus.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to authorize the opening of new cross-border humanitarian aid points between Turkey and Syria.

What's hampering Syria earthquake relief efforts?

Assad visits quake survivors in Aleppo

Syrian President Bashar Assad made his first public appearance in an earthquake-hit area.

Assad and his wife visited injured people at Aleppo University Hospital, Syrian state media reported.

Aleppo, Syria's second city, was among the most devastated cities by the earthquake that struck neighboring Turkey. 

More than 3,300 have been confirmed killed on the other side of the border in war-torn Syria.

Assad's government does not control all the parts of northern Syria devastated by the quake. 

More than 3,300 have been killed in rebel-held and government-controlled northern areas.

The deadliest quakes in the world over the last 25-years

The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria this week was the deadliest disaster in more than a decade. It was also one of the deadliest quakes in the past 25 years:

  • Feb. 6, 2023: In Turkey and Syria, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake kills more than 21,000 people.
  • April 25, 2015: In Nepal, more than 8,800 people are killed by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
  • March 11, 2011: A magnitude 9.0 quake off the northeast coast of Japan triggers a tsunami, killing more than 18,400 people.
  • Jan. 12, 2010: In Haiti, over 100,000 people are killed by a magnitude 7.0 quake. The government estimated a staggering 316,000 dead, but the scale of the destruction made an accurate count impossible.
  • May 12, 2008: A magnitude 7.9 quake strikes eastern Sichuan in China, resulting in over 87,500 deaths.
  • May 27, 2006: More than 5,700 people die when a magnitude 6.3 quake hits Indonesia's Java island.
  • Oct. 8, 2005: A magnitude 7.6 earthquake kills over 80,000 people in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir.
  • Dec. 26, 2004: A magnitude 9.1 quake in Indonesia triggers an Indian Ocean tsunami, killing about 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
  • Dec. 26, 2003: According to government figures, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake hits southeastern Iran, causing 34,00 deaths.
  • Jan. 26, 2001: A magnitude 7.6 quake strikes Gujarat in India, killing as many as 20,000 people.

You can read more here about the worst earthquakes in recorded history.

Hundreds of thousands homeless in the middle of winter

No figures have been released on how many have been left homeless by the quake.

Temperatures remain below freezing across the large region, and many people have no place to shelter.

Make-shift shelters have been set up in supermarket car parks, mosques, roadsides or amid the ruins.

Turkey's Disaster and Management Authority (AFAD) said more than 75,000 survivors have been evacuated to other provinces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces a tough election in May, has renewed a promise to quake survivors to rebuild destroyed homes within a year.

The World Bank is providing Turkey with $1.78 billion in relief and recovery financing, $780 million of which will become available immediately. In addition, the US Agency for International Development will provide $85 million in urgent humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria.

Syria quake survivors face desperate situation

Relief efforts in Syria hampered by war

Relief efforts in Syria have been complicated by the civil war that has partitioned the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross president, Mirjana Spoljaric, who was in Aleppo, said communities there were struggling.

"Communities struggling after years of fierce fighting are now crippled by the earthquake," Spoljaric tweeted.

"As this tragic event unfolds, people's desperate plight must be addressed."

An aid convoy crossed the Turkish border into rebel-held northwestern Syria on Thursday, the first delivery into the area since the quake.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to authorize the opening of new cross-border humanitarian aid points between Turkey and Syria.

"This is the moment of unity, it's not a moment to politicise or to divide but it is obvious that we need massive support," Guterres said.

Damascus views the delivery of aid to rebel-held areas from Turkey as a violation of its sovereignty.

js,lo/kb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)