Turkey-Syria Earthquake: Death toll rises above 5,000 as world sends its support

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Thousands of people have been killed as the result of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which has hit Turkey and Syria as aftershocks have caused widespread destruction.

The quakes and aftershocks have caused widespread destruction and, according to the most recent reports,, seen over 5,000 reported fatalities across the two countries.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 3,549 people had died in the country. In Syria, 1,602 fatalities have been reported. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated around 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, have been affected by the earthquake, and predicted that the death toll could reach 20,000.

Syrian Civil Defence, a rescue group operating in the opposition-held portions of northern Syria, declared a state of emergency and appealed for: “the international community to support the rescue of civilians in Syria”.

Search and rescue teams have been dispatched to the south of the country, Turkey’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said. AFAD requested international help through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), the European Union’s humanitarian program.

The earthquake

The first earthquake occurred at 4:17am local time on Monday (6 February), with its epicentre in Kahramanmaras in Gaziantep province, about 33km (20 miles) from the capital city of Gaziantep, which is home to more than two million people. The quake measured a magnitude 7.8, making it one of the most powerful quakes in the region in at least a century. It was felt as far away as Cyprus and Cairo. 

A second earthquake measuring 7.7 magnitude occurred 42 miles (67km) north-east of Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, at a depth of 2,000 metres. There have been more than 100 smaller aftershocks registered by seismologists.

Monday’s quake is believed to be the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when an earthquake of the same magnitude killed 30,000 people, according to the USGS. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world.

Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years – but Monday’s is the most powerful.

Turkey’s armed forces have set up an air corridor to enable search-and-rescue teams to reach the zone affected. Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is under construction, was not damaged by the earthquake, an official from the Russian company building the plant said.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called for increased funding for humanitarian aid in Syria, saying that many people in the north-west of the country have already been displaced up to 20 times, and that medical care in the region was “strained beyond capacity, even before this tragedy”.

International aid

Several countries have pledged to aid in the rescue efforts, including the US, UK, several EU member states, Russia, Israel, South Korea, Pakistan, India, Chine and more according to Sky News.

The US is sending two 79-person search-and-rescue teams to assist Turkish officials, according to the White House. Meanwhile, nearly 100 Los Angeles County firefighters and structural engineers, along with six specially trained dogs, will be sent to Turkey.

The UK is sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists with equipment and dogs, as well as an emergency medical team, to Turkey. It is also in contact with the UN about getting support to victims in Syria.

The European Union has mobilised search and rescue teams to help Turkey, while the Copernicus satellite system has been activated to provide emergency mapping services. At least 13 member countries have offered assistance. The EU said it is also ready to offer help to Syria through its humanitarian assistance programmes.

Italy’s Civil Protection Agency has offered assistance to Turkey and a firefighting team was preparing to leave from Pisa. Rescue teams will be dispatched to Turkey from France, and Spain will send two urban search and rescue teams to Turkey with 85 personnel and a contingent of volunteer firefighters.

Russian rescue teams from the emergencies ministry are preparing to fly to Syria. The Russian military deployed in the country has already sent 10 units comprising 300 people to help clear debris and search for survivors. The Russian military has set up points to distribute humanitarian assistance. Turkey has also accepted an offer of support from Russia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he has approved a request for humanitarian aid for Syria, received through a diplomatic official. The Israeli army is also sending a search and rescue team of 150 engineers, medical personnel and other aid workers to render lifesaving aid in Turkey.

Germany is preparing deliveries of emergency generators, tents and blankets. It is also prepared to set up camps with water treatment equipment. The nation has also offered to send teams from the THW civil protection agency to Turkey. The group International Search and Rescue Germany was preparing to fly dozens of doctors and rescue experts to Turkey late on Monday.

Austria has offered to send 84 soldiers from a military disaster relief unit to Turkey. Poland is sending Turkey 76 firefighters and eight-trained dogs with equipment. Greece is sending Turkey a team of 21 rescuers, two rescue dogs and a special rescue vehicle, together with a structural engineer, five doctors and seismic planning experts in a military transport plane.

Romania is sending specialised personnel and material to Turkey on two military aircraft. Croatia is sending 40 personnel and 10 dogs, rescue equipment and vans to Turkey.

Japan is sending a group of around 75 rescue workers to Turkey. South Korea has said it will dispatch a 60-person search and rescue team and send medical supplies to Turkey. The government also says it is providing an initial $5m (£4.1m) in humanitarian support, and the Gyeonggi provincial government plans to provide $1m (£800,000) in humanitarian assistance.

Pakistan has sent one flight of relief supplies and another carrying a 50-member search and rescue team. The government says daily aid flights to Syria and Turkey will start on Wednesday. India is sending 100 search and rescue personnel from its Natural Disaster Response Force to Turkey, as well as specially-trained dog squads and equipment for relief efforts. Medical teams with trained doctors, paramedics and essential medicines are also ready, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Swiss rescue dog service REDOG is sending 22 rescuers with 14 dogs to Turkey. The government said it would also send 80 search and rescue specialists to the country, including army disaster experts. The Czech Republic is sending Turkey a team of 68 rescuers, including firefighters, doctors, structural engineers and experts with sniffer dogs.

Serbia is sending 21 rescuers and three liaison officers to Turkey. Montenegro is sending at least 24 firefighters to Turkey. Moldova’s president says 55 rescue workers have been sent to Turkey. Lebanon’s cash-strapped government is sending soldiers, Red Cross and Civil Defense first responders and firefighters to Turkey to help with its rescue efforts.

Jordan is sending emergency aid to Syria and Turkey on the orders of King Abdullah II. An Iranian plane has delivered aid to Damascus airport following the earthquake. Iraq’s security forces have been delivering emergency aid to Syria. Egypt has pledged urgent humanitarian aid to Turkey.

Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary said the country will send equipment and rescue specialists to Turkey. New Zealand is providing $632,000 (£527,000) to the Turkish Red Crescent and $316,000 (£263,000) to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver items such as food, tents and blankets, as well as provide medical assistance and psychological support. And China’s Red Cross Society is providing the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Red Crescent with $200,000 (£166,600) each in humanitarian assistance.

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