• 31 May, 2023

Turkey-Syria earthquakes death toll passes 21000

The death toll in Turkey alone is now more than 21000 following Monday's earthquake.

 

Toll From Earthquakes Passes 20,000; U.N. Aid Convoy Enters Syria From Turkey 

 

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A convoy of U.N. aid has made it into rebel-held northwest Syria via Turkey, the first since the earthquakes destroyed neighborhoods in both countries. The combined death toll has now climbed over 20,000, and personnel are frantically searching for survivors in the freezing temperatures. 

 

The Syrian conflict has complicated relief efforts due to the divided control over many parts of the country and its poor healthcare system. Consequently, humanitarian aid to the rebels had been delayed as access routes were destroyed by the quakes. Located in these areas are camps filled with millions of displaced people desperately needing help. Those in opposition to the government have expressed dissatisfaction with its response thus far. 

 

Despite rescue teams from different countries having arrived in Turkey with specialized equipment and dogs trained to find humans beneath piles of rubble, the hope of finding more survivors is slowly fading away as temperatures drop.  

The fatalities in Turkey alone have reached 16,546, while 1,347 were killed and 2,295 injured in government-controlled parts of Syria; 2,000 dead and 2,950 injured were reported by those rescuing those trapped in rebel-held regions - but this number can rise significantly over time.  

Additionally, a total of three U.S. citizens have been identified among those killed earlier this week during an attack in southern Turkey.  

 

The United Nations said that six trucks carrying essential materials had successfully crossed through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on Thursday afternoon. They are also working on two new routes around damaged routes so that aid can continue to be delivered across borders without being impeded by politics or sanctions during this critical time when all possible avenues must come together to meet people’s needs.  

U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that emergency relief had been released from their central emergency response fund along with a plan to launch an appeal for donor support next week when Undersecretary Martin Griffiths visits Gaziantep near the epicenter of southern Turkey as well as Aleppo and Damascus over the weekend.  

Erdogan visited three cities heavily impacted by Monday's tremors today where he promised citizens that he would rebuild destroyed towns within a year and grant families 10,000 Turkish lire ($530) for assistance - though some may take longer than expected due to 6,400 collapsed buildings reported so far. 

He reported that the shipment hub in southern Turkey was safe, but that the earthquakes had caused damage to some of the roads used to deliver shipments. He went on to say that they'd identified two new routes to use as a replacement for the original route, which was too damaged. To illustrate how things could start again, he referred to the convoy with shelter material and non-food items that had successfully crossed into rebel-held northwestern Syria from Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on February 9th. 

 

 

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The Syrian Civil Defense group in the northwest mentioned that Thursday's aid delivery was just the resumption of regular assistance the region had been receiving prior to the earthquake and not specialized tools for its rescue teams. The White Helmets, an aid group operating outside government control in the region, expressed their disappointment about this added to the plight of displaced people near Salqin. Access to this rebel-held area has been restricted by Syria's government and undergoing approval from Turkey. Even before Monday's quakes, humanitarian needs in northwest Syria were high according to U.N Secretary General, Antonio Guterres. The United Nations is providing disaster assessment experts, search-and-rescue teams and emergency relief while they plan to launch an appeal for donor support next week. Undersecretary Martin Griffiths arrived in Turkey earlier and is visiting Gaziantep, Aleppo and Damascus this weekend while they released $25 million from their central emergency response fund. Guterres reminded that politics should be set aside during this situation with all possible avenues used for aid and personnel access into affected areas and that sanctions must not get in the way of emergency response. In Turkey, Erdogan visited Osmaniye and Kilis to survey damaged properties and he pledged a 1-year rebuild time with families being offered $530 each from the Turkish government. Nearly 100 countries and hundreds more organizations have responded with help despite some delays or shortcomings according to Erdogan himself. 

 

On Thursday, Erdogan traveled to Gaziantep, which had been heavily impacted by the quakes; he then stopped in Osmaniye and Kilis. In Osmaniye, he stated that due to the extent of the destruction, there may be some delays and issues. He urged people to be patient and promised to reconstruct damaged towns and cities within a year - a difficult challenge as it is estimated that over 6,400 buildings have collapsed. In addition, he said the government would provide families with 10,000 Turkish lire or about $530. 

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