Nearly 47,000 dead after earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

02/19/2023 20:51 (act. 02/19/2023 21:00)

UN transports have so far only come from Turkey ©APA/AFP

The death toll from the earthquake in Turkey rose to 41,020. The announcement was made by Turkish civil protection authority Afad late on Sunday, according to state news agency Anadolu. In Syria, around 5,900 people died in connection with the devastating earthquakes. However, the number is only updated irregularly. In total, nearly 47,000 people lost their lives in the two countries.

According to the United Nations, 8.8 million people in Syria are affected by the aftermath of the earthquake disaster. “Most of them are expected to be in need of some form of humanitarian assistance,” Syrian Deputy UN Envoy Najat Rochdi wrote on Twitter on Sunday. In the days following the February 6 earthquake, activists and aid workers in rebellious areas of northwest Syria complained about a lack of UN aid.

The disaster hit the region hard in many ways. It is difficult to predict what the consequences will be for students and the classroom. Yasmine Sherif, director of the UN Education Cannot Wait (ECW) fund, told Al Jazeera TV that 600 schools were destroyed in Syria alone. The fund is expected to provide $7 million (about €6.5 million) in emergency grants to continue providing children in Syria with access to education.

Some rescue operations at the site, where cleanup work also began, came to an end over the weekend. For example, a Qatari search and rescue team ended its two-week mission in southern Turkey, as reported by the Qatari news agency QNA. Turkish civil protection agency Afad announced on Sunday that search work in nine of the eleven affected provinces had ended. Only in Kahramanmaras and Hatay will searches for victims continue, AFAD President Yunus Sezer told reporters in Ankara.

More than 1.2 million people are estimated to have left the affected region in Turkey. More than a million people are temporarily housed in shelters, Sezer said.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Blinken, along with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, watched the destruction in Hatay province, hard hit by the earthquake. In addition, he wanted to meet the affected families at Incirlik air base, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in advance.

During his visit, Blinken pledged an additional US$100 million (about €93 million) in aid. The US has already pledged a total of $185 million. Blinken explained that the aid should go to earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria. The money will be used to buy emergency supplies such as medicine, blankets, mattresses, tents and warm clothing. In addition, the supply of drinking water and sanitary facilities must be guaranteed, as well as the education of children.

In Syria, the situation was devastating for many people even before the earthquake. Bombing and fighting during years of civil war, a severe economic crisis and almost no public services have made the country a hotbed for aid workers. According to the UN, more than 15 million people needed some form of assistance before the earthquake.

And about two weeks after the tremors, not everyone in northwest Syria received emergency aid. “We are only at the beginning and we haven’t seen the worst yet,” said Muhannad Hadi, UN emergency aid coordinator for Syria. So far, for example, around 60,000 people have been supplied with water and around 13,000 earthquake victims with tents. According to the UN, around 40,000 families are currently homeless.

Since the disaster, more than 140 truckloads of UN relief supplies have driven from Turkey into rebel-held northwest Syria. There, more than 9,000 buildings were completely or partially destroyed, leaving at least 11,000 people homeless. According to the UN, those most affected urgently needed accommodation, such as tents.

A day after the World Food Program (WFP) criticized the failure to provide aid to earthquake victims in Syrian rebel areas, a convoy from the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders left for the region. The organization announced on Sunday that 14 trucks had crossed the Turkish border and were on their way to disaster areas in northwest Syria.

Despite reports to the contrary, missing professional soccer player Christian Atsu was also found dead on Saturday. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Christian Atsu,” the Turkish Football Association wrote on Twitter. The Ghanaian died under a tall building in Hatay province, which was particularly hard hit by the tremors.