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People carry crates of water and bread in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 8, 2023.
People carrying water and bread against a background of devastation in Kahramanmaras, TurkeyImage: Suhaib Salem/REUTERS

Turkey-Syria earthquake: Search for survivors continues

February 9, 2023

Rescuers' hopes of finding many more survivors alive in the rubble dimmed after more than two days. Cold weather means time is short for possible survivors.


This update article has been closed. For DW's most up-to-date news on developments following the Turkey-Syria earthquake, please click here.

Rescuers from Turkey and Syria, and increasingly from around the world as international assistance arrives, continued to search the rubble for survivors early Wednesday after major earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Musk says Twitter access in Turkey will be re-enabled shortly

Twitter CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet that his company has been informed by the Turkish government that access will be "re-enabled shortly."

Twitter has been restricted in Turkey on Wednesday, the Netblocks internet observatory said, two days after a major earthquake that has killed more than 11,500 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria

Confirmed death toll nears 12,000

Officials say the number of dead tallied in the two countries so far was approaching 12,000.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country's death toll had passed 9,000 on Thursday. 

Syria's Health Ministry put the death toll in government areas at more than 1,200. And the volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets in rebel-held parts of Syria's northwest said at least 1,600 had died. 

Mass burials take place in Aleppo following quake

All the responsible authorities continue to warn that the figures could continue to rise and that the chances of finding survivors under the rubble is diminishing as time passes.

The first 7.8 magnitude quake on Monday occurred at 04:17 a.m. local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 18 kilometers (11 miles), the US Geological Survey said. It hit near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which has a population of around 2 million.

It was followed by a slightly smaller 7.5 magnitude tremor and many aftershocks.

Millions of people who have fled the civil war in Syria and other conflicts live in the border region beside the usual inhabitants.

Aerial photo shows the destruction in Hatay city center, southern Turkey, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
Aerial photos showed the extent of the damage in more densely populated and hard-hit areas like Hatay city in southern TurkeyImage: IHA/AP/picture alliance

Here are other updates regarding the Turkey-Syria earthquakes on Wednesday, February 8:

Blinken says loss of life 'truly staggering, shocking'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the loss of life in the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria earlier in the week is "truly staggering, shocking," after over 11,500 people have lost their lives in the tragedy.

Blinken said the US has sent more than 150 search and rescue personnel to Turkey. He added Washington will make further announcements regarding aid in the coming days

Turkey to open two more border gates to Syria for quake aid -foreign minister

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country is working to open two additional border gates to Syria to enable humanitarian aid into the war-torn country.

"There are some difficulties in terms of Turkey's and the international community's aid," Cavusoglu said, adding, "Efforts are being made to open two more border gates."

Cavusoglu said damage on the Syrian side of the road to the Cilvegozu border gate is prohibiting the flow of aid. The route is open solely for humanitarian aid as per the UN Security Council's authorization.

EU plans donor conference for March

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said a donor conference for international aid for Syria and Turkey in the wake of Monday's devastating earthquake has been planned for March.

On Twitter, von der Leyen wrote, "We are now racing against the clock to save lives together. Soon we will provide relief aid, together. Turkiye and Syria can count on the EU." 

Istanbul stock exchange closes for five days

For the first time in 24 years, the Istanbul stock exchange announced that it is closing for five days in response to the destructive earthquake at the start of the week.

The last time the Istanbul stock exchange suspended trading was after a devastating earthquake in 1999 that left more than 17,000 dead.

The Istanbul bourse cited an "increase in volatility and extraordinary price movements after the earthquake disaster."

A statement added, "Considering the low transaction volume that does not allow efficient price formation, all trades executed in the closed markets on February 8, 2023 will be cancelled."

Some politicians called for all trades that occurred since the earthquake to be cancelled. 

Opposition party legislator Murat Bakan said doing so would "protect the rights of 500,000 small investors who are under the rubble, who died or who await rescue and have no access to the internet."

Erdogan acknowledges 'shortcomings' in quake response

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged "shortcomings" in his country's response to the huge earthquake that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

In his most direct response to accusations that his government did not have enough rescue workers or aid on hand, Erdogan said, "Of course, there are shortcomings. The conditions are clear to see. It's not possible to be ready for a disaster like this."

While touring Hatay, the southeastern province bordering Syria where Turkey experienced its highest death toll, Erdogan also refuted criticism that there were an insufficient number of police and soldiers involved in rescue operations. 

He charged, "Some dishonorable, dishonest people are making false statements," adding, "We won't let the disreputable speak of them like this." He insisted more than 20,000 personnel were involved in search and rescue efforts.

Search for survivors in Adana: DW's Julia Hahn reports

"By taking every necessary step, we will carry out a disaster response that won't leave anyone under the rubble and will not leave anyone to suffer," Erdogan said.

Enraged residents of affected areas have complained of a delay in equipment for rescue and aid, including of essentials such as excavating gear and food and tents. In some cases, anguished relatives have used their bare hands to search for their loved ones.

Confusion over soccer player Atsu's safety, Hatayspor director says he's still missing

Ghanaian soccer player Christian Atsu remains missing, Hatayspor director Volkan Demirel told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

Atsu, 31, was reported to have been rescued and transported to hospital.

"There is no information on his whereabouts yet, we don't know where he is," Demirel said. "It's not the case that he was pulled out or taken anywhere else."

The search for Atsu is continuing, Demirel added.

Twitter down in Turkey as quake response criticism mounts

Twitter has been restricted in Turkey on Wednesday, the Netblocks internet observatory said.

Netblocks, which tracks connectivity across the globe, tweeted that "real-time network data shows Twitter has been restricted in Turkey; the filtering is applied on major internet providers and comes as the public come to rely on the service in the aftermath of a series of deadly earthquakes."

Glimmers of hope among the quake-torn ruins

'We need immediate support': White Helmet volunteer

Ismail al Abdullah from the White Helmet volunteer organization has told DW of the "horrible" and "tragic" circumstances in the aftermath of Monday's devastating earthquakes.

The White Helmet group was founded a decade ago to help civilians during Syria's civil war but now it is carrying out search-and-rescue operations in rebel-held areas.

"We're working on more than 100 sites. Each side includes three or four buildings, with tens of families under the rubble. We're working all we can. We are working at full capacity and doing everything we can to save everyone, but we have limited capability and limited equipment," he told DW.

He said that a major problem was a lack of medical resources.

"Those who are injured need medical care. They need hospitals to take them in," he said.

He said that the international community should be speedy in supplying aid, with time running out fast to find more survivors.

"Every day, we're saving kids from under rubble alive, And in these dark hours, dark days, we are saving people, but we're losing time. We need help. We need immediate support," he said, adding the situation was even more extreme than after bombing attacks in the civil war in Syria.

War-torn Syria braves earthquake devastation

Almost 300,000 displaced in Syria: State media

Monday's deadly earthquake has forced more than 298,000 people to leave their homes in Syria, Syrian state media say.

State news agency SANA quoted the minister of local administration and environment, Hussein Makhlouf, as saying 180 shelters had been opened by the government for those displaced.

The displacements would seem to have occurred in parts of Syria under government control, as Damascus authorities are unlikely to keep statistics for those regions held by insurgents.

Turkish port blaze 'under control': Maritime authority

A fire at the southern port of Iskenderun that broke out amid Monday's earthquakes and reignited on Wednesday after being initially extinguished has been brought under control, Turkey's maritime authority has said.

A source from the port told Reuters news agency that the nature of the fire was still unclear.

"We are suspecting it is plastic raw material or chemical but we could not clearly determine it as the containers collapsed and scattered," the source said.

Syria officially asks for EU aid, bloc says

The sanctions-hit Syrian government has put in an official request to the EU for emergency assistance, the bloc's commissioner for crisis management has said.

"Earlier today, this morning, we have received a request from the government of Syria for assistance through the civil protection mechanism," Janez Lenarcic told reporters on Wednesday.

He said the European Commission was "encouraging" EU member states to respond to the request while ensuring that aid "is not diverted" by the government in Damascus. The regime headed by President Bashar Assad has been sanctioned by the bloc since a bloody 2011 crackdown on anti-government protests that has led to a long-running civil war.

The White Helmet group, which is leading rescue efforts in rebel-held areas of Syria, has also appealed for international help as it tries to find and save survivors.

The group was formed a decade ago to help save civilians amid the civil war.

 White Helmet rescuers working among rubble carrying a victim
The White Helmets are working in areas held by anti-government insurgentsImage: KHALIL ASHAWI/REUTERS

Turkish president visiting disaster zone: Presidency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in the region devastated by Monday's earthquakes, his office said on Wednesday.

According to previous information, Erdogan was to travel to the town of Pazarcik, the epicenter of the quake, and to the worst-hit province of Hatay.

Erdogan has declared a state of emergency in 10 Turkish provinces over the earthquake.

During his visit, Erdogan, in apparent response to complaints that authorities had been slow in providing assistance, admitted that there had been initial problems but said operations were back to normal now.

The president was accused on Wednesday by an opposition politician of neglecting to prepare for such a catastrophe during his 20 years in power.

CHP party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said Erdogan had squandered money gathered from a national tax that aimed to finance earthquake protection measures.

Emergency workers from around the world arrive in crisis zone

Help has been arriving in Turkey and Syria from all over the world to help with search-and-rescue operations.

The European Union is among those offering assistance, with teams of emergency workers mobilized to help finds survivors in Turkey. The bloc's Copernicus satellite system is also providing mapping services amid the emergency. At least 19 EU member states have also offered help. The EU is also helping in neighboring Syria by funding groups in charge of rescue operations.

Germany's THW civil protection agency has sent a 50-member rescue team, including seven dogs, to Turkey. Germany is also preparing deliveries of emergency generators, tents, blankets and water treatment equipment.

The US is coordinating emergency assistance to Turkey, including by sending teams to support search and rescue efforts. Nearly 100 Los Angeles County firefighters and structural engineers, along with six specially trained dogs, were also being sent to Turkey.

The Israeli army is sending a search and rescue team of 150 engineers, medical personnel and other aid workers to Turkey, a country with which Israel has uneasy relations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he has also approved a request for humanitarian aid for Syria, with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.

Russia, China, Greece, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, Britain and Australia are among other countries and entities assisting in either Turkey or Syria or both.

China will offer 30 million yuan (€4.1 million, $4.4 million) in emergency aid to Syria, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, told a regular news briefing on Wednesday.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis asked during his weekly general audience for prayers and demonstrations of solidarity following what he described as a "devastating" earthquake.

 Aerial view of Hatay, Turkey, showing collapsed buildings
The devastation is widespread, as seen here in Hatay, TurkeyImage: Depo Photos/abaca/picture alliance

Blaze reignites at Turkish port of Iskenderun

A fire at the southern port of Iskenderun that was extinguished on Tuesday after breaking out amid the massive earthquake the day before has reignited and is being fought from the air, Turkey's Agriculture Ministry says.  

The fire shut down operations at the port, forcing freight vessels to be diverted to other destinations.

Burning containers at the port in Iskenderun
The fire broke out amid containers at the portImage: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

North Korea's Kim sends condolences to Syria

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed his condolences to Syrian President Bashar Assad following the earthquakes, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Wednesday.

North Korea is a major ally of the Assad government, with the two countries maintaining close military ties. South Korea, meanwhile, does not have diplomatic relations with the Syrian regime.  

Summary of Turkey-Syria earthquake events on Tuesday

Rescue workers deployed from all over the world rushed to the scene on Tuesday, with many of the teams heading for Turkey.

Teams from South Korea to Bosnia-Herzegovina or Germany or the UAE to name but a few set off to try to join the operations before all hopes of finding people alive faded.

South Korean rescue team members prepare to board a plane to leave for quake-ravaged Turkey at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
South Korea's first responders left Incheon International Airport on TuesdayImage: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo/picture alliance

The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, said two of its assistance teams will arrive in Turkey by Wednesday morning local time.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said some 40 rescuers from German charity International Search and Rescue (ISAR Germany) were in Turkey, as well as several members of the German federal police force. Another specialist team from the THW rescue agency had to delay its departure on Tuesday because of a winter storm halting their flight. 

People tried to organize rapid assistance on a more local level, too. 

In Berlin, Turkish and Kurdish community groups coordinated to collect, sort, and send aid donations from the large Turkish diaspora. Similar operations were underway in Frankfurt and Munich. 

People sort and pack relief supplies in a packed room at a collection point of the Turkish community in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
Berlin's Turkish community coordinated relief efforts from a music school in the German capitalImage: Markus Schreiber/AP Photo/picture alliance

The United Nations has released $25 million (€23 million) from its emergency fund in humanitarian assistance to the people affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

EU Crisis Commissioner Janez Lenarcic said 27 search and rescue teams from 19 European countries have been mobilized to search for survivors in Turkey. Lenarcic said medical teams were also being sent to help, together with 1150 rescuers and 70 rescue dogs.

ar, jsi, tj,msh/wd,jcg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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