Turkey – Syria earthquakes: Death toll passes 24,000


More than 24,000 people have been confirmed dead in Turkey and Syria after Monday’s earthquakes with multiple aftershocks. DW has the latest. 

Search and rescue teams worked through the night, pulling more bodies from the rubble following Monday’s devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

The death toll in Turkey has risen to 20,665, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said on Saturday.

In neighboring Syria, the death toll in government and opposition-held areas stands at 3,553.

There have been 1,891 aftershocks since the first quake early on Monday, AFAD said.

The number of rescues are falling, although some survivors were still being found.

The focus has shifted to helping the survivors, with many in desperate need of aid.

WHO chief in Syria

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is visiting Syria’s quake-stricken city of Aleppo.

The plane he flew in on carried around 35 tons of vital medical equipment to treat quake survivors, and he said a second plane will arrive on Sunday.

“We are very happy that we could come with the supplies,” he told reporters at Aleppo airport.

The WHO believes around 5 million people in Syria have been affected by the earthquakes and aftershocks that struck neighboring Turkey.

In Aleppo, more than 200,000 people are homeless, Iman Shankiti, WHO representative in Syria, said.

Turkish woman dies day after her rescue

A woman died in hospital on Saturday, a day after she was pulled out of the rubble of a collapsed building.

German rescuers pulled 40-year-old Zeynep Kahraman out of the rubble in the town of Kırıkhan in southern Turkey on Friday.

Steven Bayer, the German International Search and Rescue leader, told DW the rescuers’ effort was not in vain.

“She didn’t die alone,” he said.

UN aid chief says ‘worst event in 100 years in this region’

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths described the earthquake as the “worst event in 100 years in this region.”

During a news briefing in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, Griffiths also lauded Turkey’s response to the disaster as “extraordinary.”

He also told Reuters he hoped aid for Syria would go to both government and opposition-held areas, but said the matter was “not clear yet.”

The UN has pledged a $25 million grant for people in earthquake-stricken areas of Syria. That’s in addition to a $25 million (€23 million) grant announced earlier this week for emergency operations in both Turkey and Syria.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Friday around 130 urban search-and-rescue teams from around the world were working in Turkey, and another 57 teams were on their way.

Austria suspend rescue operations over ‘security situation’

The Austrian military suspended its rescue operations in Turkey due to a worsening “security situation,” a spokesman said.

“There is increasing aggression between factions in Turkey,” Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Kugelweis of the Austrian Armed Forces said.

The Austrian disaster relief unit has been helping with the search and rescue operations in the province of Hatay since Tuesday.

They were confined to their base camp until the situation improved.

“We would like to continue helping, but the circumstances are what they are,” Kugelweis said.

Cuban ‘white coats’ heading to Turkey and Syria

A group of healthcare workers from Cuba is heading to Turkey and Syria, joining a growing group of nations helping treat survivors.

Cuban authorities said 32 medics were heading to Turkey. Syrian ambassador Ghassan Obeid told Cuban state-run media earlier in the week that 27 doctors would also go to Syria.

They are part of the country’s International Medical Brigade that Cuba has deployed to disaster sites and disease outbreaks around the world.

They helped in Haiti’s battle with cholera and West Africa’s ebola outbreak in the 2010s.

Doctors and nurses from Cuba's Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade before leaving for Turkey
Doctors and nurses from Cuba will help treat victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and SyriaImage: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images

Calls for aid intensify

At least 870,000 people urgently needed food in the two countries after the quake, which may have left up to 5.3 million people homeless in Syria alone, the United Nations warned.

The World Food Programme appealed for $77 million to provide food rations to at least 590,000 newly displaced people in Turkey and 284,000 in Syria.

Temperatures remained below freezing across region, and many people had no shelter.

In Turkey, the government has distributed millions of hot meals, tents, and blankets but still struggled to reach many of those in need.

In Syria, the disaster compounded suffering in a region beset by the 12-year civil war.

The WFP has delivered food aid to 115,000 people in Turkey and Syria in the first four days since the earthquake struck, and the World Health Organization delivered 72 metric tons of trauma and emergency surgery supplies.

DW bears witness

DW’s Teri Schultz is in Turkey, covering the earthquake’s impact on the people there.

She has witnessed heartbreak and hope over the last few days.

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