Turkey earthquake – latest: WHO issues stark warning over disaster survivors

The World Health Orgnisation (WHO) has warned that survivors of the devastating earthquakes felt across Turkey and Syria face the threat of a “secondary disaster” if aid does not reach them soon.

More than 20,000 people have now died, with many more injured, according to authorities – making it the world’s deadliest seismic event since the 2011 Japan tsunami in which around the same number of people were killed.

Many people are “out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions”, warned the WHO’s Robert Holden, adding: “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.”

The search for survivors has been impeded by sub-zero temperatures and close to 200 aftershocks, which has made searching through unstable structures perilous.

The Independent is asking readers to donate to its appeal, with all funds raised going to the Disasters Emergency Committee, which brings together leading UK aid charities to help with the search efforts and provide vital medicines, clean water and temporary accommodation.

Key Points

  • ‘Time running out’ for survivors trapped beneath rubble

  • Anger as search yet to reach people in devastated areas

  • Syrians need more of everything

  • British crews hopeful of finding survivors

Desperation in Syria as World Food Programme says it is running out of stocks in the northwest

10:11 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday it was running out of stocks in northwest Syria and called to open more border crossings from Turkey after both countries were ravaged by earthquakes.

“Northwest Syria, where 90 per cent 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.”

In pictures: Homes turned to rubble in Turkey

09:49 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

People take in the site of a collapsed building following a powerful earthquake in the city of Kahramanmaras, Turkey.

 (EPA)
(EPA)
 (EPA)
(EPA)
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Syria's Assad visits Aleppo hospital in first reported trip to quake-hit area

09:21 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the Aleppo University Hospital, the presidency said on Friday, his first reported trip to an earthquake-hit area.

The presidency shared images of Assad and his wife visiting people who were injured in the devastating earthquake which has killed thousands.

President Bashar al-Assad bombed the town of Marea (AFP via Getty Images)
President Bashar al-Assad bombed the town of Marea (AFP via Getty Images)

Toddler pulled from ruins after 78 hours trapped by Turkey earthquake

08:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A two-year-old boy has been pulled from the wreckage of a destroyed building in Turkey, 78 hours after the earthquake that devastated large swathes of the country.

The toddler was pulled from the wreckage of a four-floor apartment building in the Odabası district in the city of Antakya. A Romanian and Polish rescue team worked a small gap between some collapsed concrete and lifted the boy to safety as he wept.

The child, identified as Mehmet Tatar, was handed to health workers and put into an ambulance to be taken away for a medical check. The boy’s unlikely escape prompted tears of joy from the rescue team.

Toddler pulled from ruins after 78 hours trapped by Turkey earthquake

Donate to our Turkey and Syria earthquake appeal

08:31 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Independent is appealing for help in raising urgently needed funds following the deadliest earthquake to hit Turkey and Syria in almost a century.

More than 20,000 people have now died and hundreds of thousands more have been left injured and homeless after large swathes of the country were devastated.

A lack of equipment and expertise to reach those who are still trapped has hampered rescue efforts in Turkey, while the situation in Syria has been made complicated by the conflict that has wrecked its infrastructure.

Donate to our Turkey and Syria earthquake appeal

‘Don’t forget about Syria,’ aid worker in Istanbul urges

08:07 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A British-Pakistani aid worker raising money for those impacted by the earthquake said she can feel the entire city of Istanbul “in mourning”, as she urged the West: “Don’t forget about Syria.”

Rubbia A, 27, who did not want to provide her last name, is a mental health researcher for King’s College London and has been working remotely while travelling abroad, stopping to visit her friend Safae Kherbouche, a 23-year-old Moroccan student in Istanbul.

As the earthquake hit, the pair vowed to provide humanitarian aid to Turkey and Syria and have raised more than £11,000 on JustGiving to supply victims with blankets, food, baby clothes, heaters, sanitary products and chargers.

“There’s a lot of kids without families now,” Rubbia, from south London, told the PA news agency.

“For me, Istanbul is like London - it’s a very diverse, bubbly city (but) now you can feel everyone’s in mourning.”

Ms Kherbouche added: “I lived in Gaziantep for two months in 2018... I know so many friends, so many people who have died.

“Earlier I was in the street, there was a family, a lady, her husband died... And she was left with six kids and all they had in their hands was a blanket.

“And I asked her: ‘What’s wrong?’, and she said their house has been burned in the earthquake.”

Rubbia and Ms Kherbouche were in the east of Turkey only last week, and had planned to fly from Gaziantep back to Istanbul on Monday February 6.

When their flight was cancelled due to heavy snow, they were forced to travel sooner and arrived in Istanbul just as the earthquake began.

They are raising money through three mediums, including JustGiving, Rubbia’s self-founded charity named Beyond Borders, and Ms Kherbouche’s own network of friends and connections within Turkey.

“We woke up on Monday morning and found out there was an earthquake in the region that we were meant to fly from on that morning,” Rubbia explained.

“So obviously (our) faith is very strong.”

The duo are dedicated to getting crucial aid to those in most need and have already used £1,000 in donations to buy 63 heaters.

Earthquake ‘another layer of crisis’ for Syrian people, says Unicef

07:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The earthquake that hit Syria on 6 February is “another layer of crisis” for the country, Unicef has said.

At least 20,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria after the 7.8 magnitude tremor hit the countries.

Syria has faced more than a decade of conflict, a worsening economic crisis, and a cholera outbreak declared in September 2022.

Unicef’s Eva Hinds told The Independent that experiencing the earthquake was likely to bring back memories of a time when fighting was “very, very active.”

Watch here.

Exclusive: Earthquake is ‘another layer of crisis’ for Syrian people, says Unicef

Death toll crosses 21,000

07:20 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The toll in Turkey and Syria from this week’s two devastating earthquakes has crossed 21,000 as rescuers continue recovery efforts.

Turkey’s disaster and emergency management authority on Friday said 18,342 bodies have been recovered so far, with the number of injured rising to 74,242.

Across the border in Syria, the death toll is at 3,377 deaths.

Ex-Chechen commander accused of alleged war crimes is heading Russia’s aid effort

07:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A former Chechen commander who is wanted by Ukraine for alleged war crimes is reportedly leading Russia’s earthquake relief efforts in Turkey.

Daniil Martynov is thought to be close to the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and was in multiple locations in Ukraine during the early days of Moscow’s war.

This week, he has spoken to several Russian media outlets from the earthquake-torn country after being appointed as an adviser in Russia’s emergency situations ministry last year, CNN reported.

Over 18,000 bodies recovered in Turkey so far

07:02 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The death toll in Turkey from this week’s two devastating earthquakes has risen to 18,342, with the number of people injured rising to 74,242, the country’s disaster and emergency management authority said on Friday.

It said that 75,780 survivors have been evacuated from the quake zone in southern Turkey and that more than 121,000 personnel were involved in the rescue and relief efforts.

Dam collapses in Syria flooding entire village

06:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A dam in Syria’s Idlib province has collapsed in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, flooding the entire village and forcing people to flee their homes.

The flood waters from the Asi River destroyed more than 20 houses in the rebel-held al-Tlul village and inundated dozens of others.

“The mud dam collapsed because of the earthquake,” Louan Hamadeh, one of the few villagers who remained despite the flooding, told AFP.

UN appeals for more aid

06:37 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The United Nations has appealed for more aid for Turkey and Syria as the death toll from two devastating earthquakes crossed 21,000.

“Aid, life-saving aid, is desperately needed by civilians wherever they are irrespective of borders and boundaries,” said UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.

“We need it urgently, through the fastest, most direct, and most effective routes. They need more of absolutely everything.”

Dog dug out of rubble after two days

06:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A small dog who was trapped under the rubble in Turkey’s Iskenderun following the devastating earthquake has been rescued.

The dog, named Pamuk, was dug out of the rubble after two days.

Pamuk was being looked after by its human’s neighbour, an eyewitness told CGTN. The owner was in a hospital in the city of Mersin approximately 200km west of Iskenderun.

Live: Rescue efforts continue in Turkey after earthquake death toll passes 20,000

06:07 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Syria orphans from quake taken in by overwhelmed relatives

05:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A Syrian baby girl whose mother gave birth to her while trapped under the rubble of their home during the devastating earthquake now has a name: Aya, Arabic for “a sign from God.”

With her parents and all her siblings killed, her great-uncle will take her in.

Aya is one of untold numbers of orphans left by Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 20,000 people in northern Syria and southern Turkey.

In most cases, relatives take in orphaned children, doctors and experts say. But those surviving relatives are also dealing with the wreckage of their own lives and families.

Read more.

Syria orphans from quake taken in by overwhelmed relatives

Teen rescued from rubble after 80 hours

05:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A 16-year-old girl was pulled out alive from the earthquake rubble after 80 hours, leaving her overjoyed father in tears and the grieving nation cheering.

The rescue team took five hours to save her life after neighbours in the severely affected Antakya city raised the alarm after hearing sounds from the splintered walls.

“My dear, my dear!” the girl’s father called out, according to AFP, as rescuers pulled the teen out and the watching crowd broke into applause.

The death toll across Turkey and Syria has climbed over 20,000.

Toddler pulled from ruins after 78 hours

04:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A two-year-old boy has been pulled from the wreckage of a destroyed building in Turkey, 78 hours after the earthquake that devastated large swathes of the country.

The toddler was pulled from the wreckage of a four-floor apartment building in the Odabası district in the city of Antakya. A Romanian and Polish rescue team worked a small gap between some collapsed concrete and lifted the boy to safety as he wept.

The child was handed to health workers and put into an ambulance to be taken away for a medical check. The boy’s unlikely escape prompted tears of joy from the rescue team.

Chris Stevenson reports.

Toddler pulled from ruins after 78 hours trapped by Turkey earthquake

Syrian refugee who lost 25 relatives in quake says ‘fate caught up with us’

04:13 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A Syrian refugee has spoken of his heartbreak after losing 25 relatives in the deadly earthquakes that devastated large parts of Syria and Turkey.

Amhad Idris said his entire family fled his home in 2012 to find refuge in the northwestern Syrian city of Saraqib, which also fell to rebel forces that same year, but said “fate caught up with us”.

The majority of his family was killed when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the city on Monday.

Visiting a makeshift morgue – which are reportedly running full throughout the already war-torn country – on Tuesday, Mr Idris was seen walking between the bodies of his loved ones as he clutched his dead grandson.

Read more.

Syrian refugee who lost 25 family in Turkey earthquake says ‘fate caught up with us’

US eases sanctions on Syria to allow earthquake aid

03:33 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The US Treasury Department has issued a licence to send aid to Syria without incurring sanctions for nearly six months.

The licence grants the “broad authorisation necessary to support immediate disaster relief efforts in Syria”, the Treasury said in a statement on Thursday.

Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary of the Treasury, said: “As international allies and humanitarian partners mobilise to help those affected, I want to make very clear that US sanctions in Syria will not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people.”

US to provide $85m humanitarian aid to Turkey, Syria

03:27 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The US said it will provide $85m in urgent humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake that killed more than 20,000 people.

The announcement by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) came shortly after secretary of state Antony Blinken spoke with Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, their second call in four days.

“This new funding is supporting USAID’s humanitarian partners to deliver urgently-needed aid for millions of people in Turkey and in Syria,” USAID said in a statement.

Washington has already sent to Turkey teams consisting of around 160 people and 12 dogs, whose top priority is to help save people from under thousands of collapsed buildings.

Analysis | Erdogan faces anger of his people over Turkey earthquake relief

03:01 , Andy Gregory

Our international correspondent Borzou Daragahi reports:

Anger is growing across Turkey to the way President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has handled the response to the devastating series of earthquakes and aftershocks that has left more than 16,000 dead in the country and made tens of thousands more homeless.

Rescue workers and residents in both Turkey and Syria – where thousands more have died – are still searching for survivors of the earthquakes, which struck heavily-populated regions of the both countries. But the political recriminations have already begun, with presidential and parliamentary elections having been scheduled – at least for now – on 14 May.

More than 13 million or 15 per cent of Turkey’s 85 million people across 10 provinces have been impacted by the disaster, with Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) facing accusations from earthquake survivors that the official response has been slow and uneven, especially in regions politically loyal to opposition parties. "Where is this state?" the Karar newspaper blared in a headline.

“The government has not prepared for an earthquake for 20 years,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition People’s Republican Party, in a video. “If there is one person responsible for this, it is Erdogan.”

‘Where is the state?’ Erdogan faces anger of his people over Turkey earthquake relief

Rishi Sunak joins volunteers at earthquake donation centre

02:04 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak called the scenes from the aftermath of the Turkey and Syria earthquake “heart-breaking” as he helped students at a donation centre set up after the disaster, reports Ted Hennessey.

The prime minister met University College London (UCL) students in the capital on Thursday evening, helping pack items at the centre and donating hats, scarves and blankets.

At the centre in central London, set up by students from the UCL Turkish Society, Mr Sunak praised volunteers. “It’s been amazing to spend time with the students here at UCL who have come together to organise donations,” he told reporters.

“People in Turkey are affected by this awful tragedy and I’m sure this has been replicated across the country. It’s really hard, actually, to comprehend the scale of the tragedy that has happened. I as a dad, watching parents try and find their young children in the rubble, is heart-breaking. And we will do everything that we can to help Turkey.”

The UK government has pledged to match £5m in funds raised through an appeal to help the rescue and relief effort.

Rishi Sunak joins volunteers at earthquake donation centre

Expats, aid workers and celebrities urge quake donations ‘for sake of humanity’

01:02 , Josh Payne

British expats, aid workers and celebrities have urged people to send money to help the Turkey and Syria earthquake relief effort “for the sake of humanity”.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched an appeal for funds with the support of celebrities such as Daniel Craig, Sir Michael Palin, Tamsin Greig and the Rev Richard Coles – while also receiving the backing of the Prince and Princess of Wales, who made an undisclosed donation.

Expats, aid workers and celebrities urge quake donations ‘for sake of humanity’

UK aid worker helping earthquake relief effort ‘never seen such destruction’

00:05 , Josh Payne

A British aid worker said he has never experienced “this level of suffering, death and destruction” following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Atiqur Rahman, who works as head of development for the Global Relief Trust, told the PA news agency he was in Syria when the 7.8 magnitude quake hit and said he thought a “high-speed train was going past the building”.

After hearing the situation in the Turkish city of Antakya was worse, his team drove there to find his colleagues based in the area had all lost their homes – with one fatally crushed by the rubble.

UK aid worker helping earthquake relief effort ‘never seen such destruction’

Exclusive: Earthquake is ‘another layer of crisis’ for Syrian people, says Unicef

Thursday 9 February 2023 23:10 , Andy Gregory

The earthquakes which hit Syria on 6 February is “another layer of crisis” for the country, Unicef has said.

Syria has faced more than a decade of conflict, a worsening economic crisis, and a cholera outbreak declared in September 2022.

Unicef’s Eva Hinds told The Independent that experiencing the earthquake was likely to bring back memories of a time when fighting was “very, very active.”

‘There’s no hope’: Man watches as machinery tears at remains of building where his family are trapped

Thursday 9 February 2023 22:39 , Andy Gregory

In the city of Nurdagi, situated some 35 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake, Mehmet Yilmaz was among a crowd of people who watched as construction machines tore at what remained of the building where six members of his family — including three children and a three-month-old baby — were trapped.

“There’s no hope,” the 67-year-old, who has not moved from the area for three days, told the Associated Press. “We can’t give up our hope in God, but they entered the building with listening devices and dogs and there was nothing.

He estimated about 80 people were still trapped within the collapsed structure, but said he didn’t believe any of them would be recovered alive.

“The building looks like stacks of paper and cardboard, the fifth floor and the first floor have collided into one,” he said.

People watch as rescuers and civilians look for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Nurdagi (ZEIN AL RIFAI/AFP via Getty Images)
People watch as rescuers and civilians look for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Nurdagi (ZEIN AL RIFAI/AFP via Getty Images)

US to provide $85m in aid to Turkey and Syria

Thursday 9 February 2023 21:51 , Andy Gregory

The US Agency for International Development has announced that it will provide $85m in urgent humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria.

“USAID is providing emergency food and shelter for refugees and newly displaced people, winter supplies to help families brave the cold, critical health care services to provide trauma support, safe drinking water to prevent disease, and hygiene and sanitation assistance to keep people safe and healthy,” USAID said in a statement.

People watch as rescuers search in a destroyed building in Adana, southeastern Turkey (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
People watch as rescuers search in a destroyed building in Adana, southeastern Turkey (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Donate to The Independent’s appeal

Thursday 9 February 2023 21:30 , Andy Gregory

The Independent is asking readers to help by giving generously to an organsiation providing aid to those in desperate need.

All funds raised will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Turkey-Syria earthquake appeal, which brings together leading UK aid charities to help with the search efforts and provide vital medicines, clean water and temporary accommodation.

Donate to our Turkey and Syria earthquake appeal

Death toll surpasses 20,000, making earthquake deadliest since Haiti

Thursday 9 February 2023 21:13 , Andy Gregory

The official death toll from the earthquakes has now risen above 20,000.

The number of confirmed fatalities in Turkey rose to 17,406, health minister Fahrettin Koca said – putting it on a par with the earthquake in northwest Turkey which killed more than 17,000 people in 1999.

In Syria, already devastated by nearly 12 years of civil war, more than 3,300 people have died, according to the government and a rescue service in the rebel-held northwest.

This appears to make it the most deadly seismic event since the magnitude 7 earthquake which killed 316,000 people in Haiti in January 2010.

Mary Dejevsky | The political fallout of the Turkey earthquakes could be profound

Thursday 9 February 2023 20:41 , Andy Gregory

Our columnist Mary Dejevsky writes:

ome natural disasters, however devastating, remain just that: natural disasters. Others trigger changes that might have taken much longer or never happened at all. The earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria this week could turn out to be among them, if not now, then in the coming months.

There can scarcely be any part of the world where such a disaster could potentially have a greater impact than here, along a fault line that is not only geological – but political and cultural. With the chaotic aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the rise of Isis, and Syria’s still not ended civil war, the region has experienced quite enough volatility in recent decades – without the addition of this major catastrophe.

That the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, had been gradually reasserting his power over most of Syria and was preparing for a meeting with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – intended as a first step back to international acceptance – is a particularly grim irony. The fate of this encounter, and the prospects for a Turkey-Syria rapprochement, is just one of the big uncertainties created by the disaster.

The political fallout of the Turkey earthquakes could be profound | Mary Dejevsky

British family’s baby monitor captures moment Turkey struck by powerful earthquake

Thursday 9 February 2023 20:05 , Andy Gregory

A British family’s baby monitor has captured the moment a deadly earthquake struck Turkey, reports my colleague Mary-Kate Findon.

This video shows little Katelyn’s cot shaking as the area was rocked by the earthquake which was felt as far as Egypt.

The family, from Hull, were on holiday in Turkey when the devastating event took place.

Lemi Gezer says he was in Istanbul when the quake hit, but his wife Victoria and baby were in Adana, much closer to the epicentre.

He immediately drove for 12 hours to reach his family, who were safe.

US will continue to demand humanitarian access to all of Syria, Washington says

Thursday 9 February 2023 19:33 , Andy Gregory

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday to express continued support and discuss how the United States can continue efforts to provide assistance in Turkey and Syria following the earthquakes.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US will continue to demand unhindered humanitarian access to Syria and urged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's government to immediately allow aid through all border crossings.

First aid convoy crosses into Syria’s northwest

Thursday 9 February 2023 18:57 , AP

A small convoy has crossed from Turkey into Syria’s rebel-held northwest with desperately needed medicines, blankets, tents and UN shelter kits.

It is the first aid to reach the enclave, three days after the devastating earthquakes.

Before the convoy of six trucks, the only cargo coming across the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkey-Syria border was a steady stream of bodies of earthquake victims – Syrian refugees who had fled the war in their country and settled in Turkey. Tearful survivors carried the remains of their loved ones wrapped in sheets, while others waited on the Syrian side to receive them.

Under an agreement at the UN Security Council, Bab al Hawa is the only crossing the United Nations is allowed to use to deliver aid from Turkey to the enclave. But the chaos in the aftermath of the quake, damaged roads and piles of debris around the crossing prevented the UN from delivering aid.

Smaller aid groups have reportedly brought in some aid across other border crossings, but UN officials have been reluctant to break protocol.

Watch: Babies pulled from rubble of Turkey earthquake flown to safety on Erdogan's plane

Thursday 9 February 2023 17:59 , Andy Gregory

Britain will continue ‘close cooperation’ with Turkey, says Cleverly

Thursday 9 February 2023 17:27 , Andy Gregory

Britain will continue to work with Turkey to assess what more help is needed in the aftermath of the earthquakes, the foreign secretary has said.

Speaking from Rome, James Cleverly told reporters that UK officials had “been in close cooperation” with Ankara and the United Nations, saying: “We deployed an urban search-and-rescue team with modern world-class equipment to support the coalition that was already deployed.

“We will continue working with the Turkish authorities to find out what more they need and we will continue coordinating through the United Nations and the White Helmets civil force in Syria.

“Of course, the situation in Syria for obvious reasons is considerably harder and more complicated, but nevertheless there are lives that need to be saved and we will endeavour to work with the Turkish government and the Syrian opposition and the United Nations to try and help all the people that need our support.”

Ukrainian team joins search for earthquake survivors

Thursday 9 February 2023 17:10 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian rescue experts – whose skills have been sharpened in the wake of Russia’s invasion – have been sent to Turkey to help with the hunt for survivors and offer first aid.

“There is a war in our country, but we understand that we have to help, and this aid is mutual. There is no other way to do it,” said Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, adding: “This work goes on constantly, we have prepared people who take part in such operations.”

Kyiv has sent 88 people to Turkey, including specialists in search and rescue operations, doctors, dog handlers and firefighters. The team built tents near the city of Antakya to provide emergency shelter and set up generators for those left homeless by the earthquake.

They have joined rescuers from Turkey and around the world – including Russia.

“We will work and distance ourselves from Russian rescuers as far as we can. The coordination centre has informed us that Russian emergency crews are located in a far-off place and we won’t be able to meet,” Mr Khorunzhyi said.

“People should protect their lives, this is the most important thing they have. We sympathise with the Turkish people, the families of the dead and wounded.”

Germany to up funding to Syria by £23m

Thursday 9 February 2023 16:38 , Andy Gregory

Germany will increase the amount of humanitarian assistance it provides in Syria by €26m (£23m) in response to the devastating earthquakes this week.

A statement from the German embassy in Beirut said the funds were needed “especially in the affected areas in the northwestern parts of the country”, home to many Syrians displaced during the civil war.

“Germany can build on close ties with international organisations and NGOs in northwestern Syria, as it has already been providing extensive humanitarian assistance there,” the statement said.

UN aid chief in Turkey, to visit Syria to assess quake needs

Thursday 9 February 2023 15:55 , William Mata

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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 said on Thursday.

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.

Update: Turkey battles to help house its citizens

Thursday 9 February 2023 15:43 , William Mata

Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kahranmaras on Wednesday (EPA/MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kahranmaras on Wednesday (EPA/MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE)

Turkey is grappling with one of the biggest challenges from the earthquake that flattened a swathe of its towns and cities: how to shelter hundreds of thousands of people left homeless in the middle of winter.

Banks of tents are being erected in stadiums and shattered city centres, and Mediterranean and Aegean summer beach resorts outside the quake zone are opening up hotel rooms for evacuees.

With some 6,500 buildings collapsed and countless more damaged, hundreds of thousands of people lack safe housing.

Convoy crosses into rebel-held Syria

Thursday 9 February 2023 15:35 , William Mata

Syria Turkey Earthquake (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Syria Turkey Earthquake (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A small convoy crossed from Turkey into Syria's rebel-held northwest Thursday with desperately needed medicines, blankets, tents and U.N. shelter kits, the first aid to reach the enclave, three days after the devastating earthquake killed thousands.

Before the convoy of six trucks, the only cargo coming across the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkey-Syria border was a steady stream of bodies of earthquake victims — Syrian refugees who had fled the war in their country and settled in Turkey but perished in Monday's 7.8 magnitude quake. Tearful survivors carried the remains of their loved ones wrapped in sheets, while others waited on the Syrian side to receive them.

Even before the earthquake wreaked havoc on both sides of the border — the death toll on Thursday surpassed 19,000 — the Syrian enclave of 4.6 million people was plagued by extreme misery, with many living in displacement camps and relying on humanitarian aid to survive.

Updated: Earthquake disaster poses 'serious difficulties' for Turkey's May elections

Thursday 9 February 2023 15:34 , William Mata

Recep Tayyip Erdogan tours the site of destroyed buildings during his visit to the city of Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey (Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan tours the site of destroyed buildings during his visit to the city of Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey (Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)

The devastating scale of Monday's earthquake in southern Turkey presents "serious difficulties" for planned elections in mid-May, a Turkish official said on Thursday, in the first sign that authorities could consider postponing the vote.

President Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to extend his rule into a third decade, said last month the elections would be held on May 14. Opinion polls published before the earthquake suggested they would be his toughest electoral challenge yet.

Erdogan's popularity has already been eroded by the soaring cost of living and a slump in the lira. He now faces a wave of criticism over his government's response to the deadliest quake to hit Turkey since 1999, shortly before he rose to power.

Whatever the political fallout from the disaster, the logistical challenge of holding elections in the affected areas are immense. The region affected by the quakes is home to some 13 million people, and hundreds of thousands need shelter after their buildings were destroyed or rendered unsafe.

Aid workers describe ‘grim’ devastation

Thursday 9 February 2023 15:15 , William Mata

The scene above Ankara (AP)
The scene above Ankara (AP)

Aid workers on the ground in Turkey and Syria have described the "grim" devastation caused by this week's earthquake as they called on the British public to donate to a new charity appeal.

Salah Aboulgasem, who is working for the charity Islamic Relief in Gaziantep, southern Turkey, arrived 14 hours after the earthquake struck 21 miles east of the city.

He said: "I've been working in the humanitarian space for more than 15 years. I've been to many disaster zones and I've been to many warzones, and I have to say that the size and the scale of this is unprecedented."

Mr Aboulgasem spoke of his shock at visiting Nurdagi, a nearby town of 50,000 people where he said 70 per cent of buildings had been flattened.

"Looking around, there were search and rescue operations going on everywhere," he said.

"Everywhere you looked there was a search and rescue going on. The buildings had completely collapsed. It was shocking to see it."

He added that survivors are so terrified of buildings collapsing in aftershocks that they are remaining out on the streets and living in tents.

Hundreds of aftershocks recorded

Thursday 9 February 2023 15:11 , William Mata

Almost 650 aftershocks have been recorded since the two 7.8 and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes struck on Monday, Turkey’s disaster management agency AHAD has said.

The after effects have made it harder for rescue workers to find any survivors after the main strike as the tremors follow on around the same area.

The aftershocks are caused by the Earth’s crust adjusting after the main shock.

Syria situation ‘harder and more complicated’ - Cleverly

Thursday 9 February 2023 14:55 , William Mata

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (PA Wire)
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (PA Wire)

Britain will continue to work with the United Nations and others to support Turkey and Syria following earthquakes there, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Thursday, describing the situation in Syria as "considerably harder”.

"We will continue working with the Turkish authorities to find out what more they need, and we will continue coordinating through the United Nations and the White Helmets civil force in Syria," he told a joint news conference in Rome.

"Of course, the situation in Syria, for obvious reasons, is considerably harder and more complicated, but nevertheless, there are lives that need to be saved."

Anger over, now reversed, decision to block Twitter

Thursday 9 February 2023 14:35 , William Mata

Turkey's decision to block access to Twitter for about 12 hours from Wednesday afternoon to early Thursday as people scrambled to find loved ones after devastating earthquakes has compounded public frustration at the pace of relief efforts.

Opposition leaders and social media users criticised the throttling of the platform, which has helped people share information on arriving aid and the location of those still trapped in rubble after the initial tremor on Monday.

President Tayyip Erdogan's government has blocked social media in the past and focused in recent months on fighting what it calls "disinformation", which it said prompted the block on Wednesday.

It restored full access to Twitter early on Thursday as the quake's death toll in Turkey and neighbouring Syria shot past 17,000.

Survivors struggle to keep warm

Thursday 9 February 2023 14:31 , William Mata

Turks try to stay warm with fire (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Turks try to stay warm with fire (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Thousands who lost their homes in a catastrophic earthquake huddled around campfires and clamored for food and water in the bitter cold, three days after the temblor and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 19,300.

Rescuers continued their race to pull more people alive from the rubble, with the window closing to find trapped survivors. While stories of miraculous rescues briefly buoyed spirits, the grim reality of the hardship facing tens of thousands who survived the disaster cast a pall.

The number of deaths has surpassed the toll in a 2011 earthquake off Japan that triggered a tsunami, killing more than 18,400 people.

Death total now 19,300 - beyond Fukushima disaster

Thursday 9 February 2023 14:24 , William Mata

Deaths from earthquake in Turkey and Syria exceed 19,300, surpassing toll from Japan's Fukushima disaster.

In Turkey, the number has now risen to 16,170 with 60,000 injured.

The death toll in Syria is now 3,192 and around 5,000 are said to be injured.

France pledges €12 million in emergency post-earthquake aid to Syria

Thursday 9 February 2023 14:17 , William Mata

France has pledged €12 million in emergency post-earthquake aid to Syria.

Soreign ministry spokesman François Delmas has said the aid to be disbursed “through non-governmental organisations and the United Nations in all regions affected”.

Mr Delmas said this would include €5 million towards a UN fund providing cross-border aid to northwest Syria and another €5 million for “several French and international NGOs working on emergency responses in the health, shelter, water, hygiene and sanitation sectors”.

The final €2 million is “under review” but could be spent on urgent food aid.

Plea for Britons to send money directly to relatives in Turkey

Thursday 9 February 2023 14:16 , William Mata

A Briton who lives in Turkey has pleaded with people in the UK to send money directly to people they know in the earthquake-hit country, saying of survivors “they can't wait a week, they're sleeping in their cars”.

The death toll from the earthquake and its aftershocks in Turkey and Syria now exceeds 16,000, with tens of thousands of people thought to have lost their homes and around 60,000 injured.

Debs Handy, 59, moved to Turkey in 2020 from the UK having previously lived in Chichester.

Now living in Calis, Fethiye, in south-west Turkey, with her husband, she and other expats have been gathering donations for people who work in Fethiye's hospitality industry who have family in areas impacted by the earthquake.

“Everyone's going through their wardrobes, they're going through anything they have spare,” Ms Handy said.

Earthquake flattens swathe of towns and cities in Turkey - Seven Italians among dead

Thursday 9 February 2023 13:48 , William Mata

Hundreds of buildings across Turkey and Syria collapsed during the earthquake (PA Media)
Hundreds of buildings across Turkey and Syria collapsed during the earthquake (PA Media)

Turkey is grappling with one of the biggest challenges from the earthquake that flattened a swathe of its towns and cities: how to shelter hundreds of thousands of people left homeless in the middle of winter.

Banks of tents are being erected in stadiums and shattered city centres, and Mediterranean and Aegean beach resorts outside the quake zone that use the winter months to prepare for summer tourism are opening up hotel rooms for evacuees.

But with some 6,500 buildings collapsed and countless more buildings damaged, hundreds of thousands of people lack safe housing.

- Seven Italians are missing following this week's deadly earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said at a news conference on Thursday.

Full story

Thursday 9 February 2023 13:44 , William Mata

A series of earthquakes and aftershocks striking the border between southeast Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday have caused immense devastation.

Two major quakes measuring magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5 respectively shook the two countries on Monday, with hundreds of powerful aftershocks following.

As the rescue operation enters its fourth day, the true extent of the damage is still unravelling.

Read the full story here.

World Health Organisation

Thursday 9 February 2023 10:55 , William Mata

The World Health Organisation has put forward the importance for humanitarian organisations to act quickly.

Robert Holden, incident response manager, said many are surviving “out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions”.

“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,” he added. “People need the basic elements to survive the next period.”

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