Death toll in Turkey and Syria earthquake tops 19,000
Experts warn that there is “a real danger of a secondary disaster”. The EU leaders officially offer more help and the first UN aid convoy reached northern Syria.
ANKARA · 09 FEBRUARY 2023 · 14:50 CET
Over three days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Turkey and Syria, its effects continue to grow.
At least 19,000 people have died, with Turkey’s death toll rose to over 16,000, according to the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
During a visit to the quake-hit province of Gaziantep this morning, Erdoğan also told reporters that there are over 68,000 people injured and more than 6,400 buildings destroyed.
Furthermore, at least 28,044 citizens have been evacuated from earthquake-affected Kahramanmaras, Turkey’s disaster agency informed.
In Syria, the most recent figure of deaths stands at over 3,100. More than 298,000 people were forced to leave their homes, Syrian state media reported. These are data only about the government-controlled part of Syria, not about the regions held by other factions in the north-west of the country, which are closer to the epicentre.
WHO: “A real danger of a secondary disaster”
“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”, said the World Heath Organization's (WHO) incident response manager, Robert Holden.
At a press conference in Geneva this Thursday morning, he stressed that humanitarian organisations must make sure that people who have survived the quake “continue to survive”.
Many of them “are surviving out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions, with severely disrupted water, fuel and electricity supplies”.
First UN aid convoy to reach northern Syria
That is why the first UN aid convoy made up of six trucks carrying shelter items and Non Food Items, has just crossed through Bab al-Hawa crossing, the only humanitarian aid corridor between Turkey and Syria, where around 4.1 million people who fled the country’s 11-year civil war, were already relying on aid to survive.
“We need lifesaving aid. It’s desperately needed by civilians wherever they are, irrespective of borders and boundaries. We need it urgently through the fastest, most direct and most effective routes. They need more of absolutely everything”, pointed out the UN’s special envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen.
Rescue teams from both countries continue their hard work, but hope is fading for the many people still trapped under the rubble.
In addition to the local aid, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that Turkey has received pledges of aid from 95 countries and 16 international organisations since Monday.
The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wrote on twitter.“We are now racing against the clock to save lives together. Soon we will provide relief aid, together. Türkiye and Syria can count on the EU. Let’s mobilise funds globally for the affected communities”.
We are now racing against the clock to save lives together.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) February 8, 2023
Soon we will provide relief aid, together.
Türkiye and Syria can count on the EU.
@SwedishPM and I will host a Donors' Conference early March in Brussels.
Let’s mobilise funds globally for the affected communities.
The leaders of the 27 EU membes gathered in Brussels for a summit, wrote to Erdoğan on Thursday to express their “full solidarity” and offer more emergency aid.
“We stand ready to further step up our support in close coordination with the Turkish authorities. Our thoughts will continue to be with you and your people”, they added.