Powerful quake rocks Turkey and Syria, thousands feared dead
A man carries the body of an earthquake victim in the Besnia village near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful earthquake has caused significant damage in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared. Damage was reported across several Turkish provinces, and rescue teams were being sent from around the country. | Ghaith Alsayed/AP

ANKARA, Turkey  — The death toll is rising from a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit southeast Turkey and northern Syria early on Monday. Hundreds were killed in the two countries, thousands were injured and the toll was expected to rise further.

President Joe Biden has conveyed his condolences to those affected by the deadly quake and offered to send U.S. help to Turkey if needed.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria,” Biden wrote on Twitter, referring to Turkey by its preferred official name.

“I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye and provide any and all needed assistance,” he added.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the European Union “stand ready to offer our support” to Turkey as well. Sweden currently holds the EU’s rotating president.

The president of Turkey’s disaster management authority, Yunus Sezer, says more than 40 countries have so far offered help.

English Premier League Newcastle United has voiced fears for the fate of its former player Christian Atsu, who is reportedly among those trapped under the rubble in Kahramanmaras.

The Ghanaian international spent several years with Newcastle and Chelsea before signing with Turkish side Hatayspor last summer.

“Praying for some positive news,” his former club Newcastle said in a social media post.

Turkey’s minister of education said schools throughout the country’s 81 provinces would be closed until Feb. 13 following the deadly earthquake

Schools were closed for a two-week holiday and were set to open Monday but had remained shut in some cities because of snowstorms.

Britain is sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists with equipment and dogs, as well as an emergency medical team, to Turkey.

The U.K. government said the teams, due later Monday, were bringing equipment including seismic listening devices, concrete cutting and breaking equipment, and propping and shoring tools.

British Ambassador-designate Jill Morris said that “the British Embassy in Ankara is in close contact with the Turkish authorities to understand how we can best support those on the ground.”

The U.K. also says it’s in contact with the U.N. about getting support to victims in Syria.

A number of other countries joined the expanding international relief effort, including the United Arab Emirates which will set up a field hospital in Turkey, and Qatar which was sending rescuers and emergency supplies.

Romania, Spain, and Poland joined a European Union effort, sending rescuers, medics, dogs, and specialized equipment.

While most of the international aid was headed for Turkey, Russia said it also planned to send assistance directly to its close ally Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad in a phone call that Moscow will deliver urgent aid and send rescue workers to assist the earthquake-hit country.

Egypt and Liverpool soccer star Mohamed Salah has offered condolences to Syrians and Turks following Monday’s devastating earthquake

The striker wrote on Twitter: “Terrible news coming out of Syria and Turkey. My condolences for the lives lost and I wish all those injured a full recovery.” The World Health Organization says it is helping a massive international effort to support Turkey and Syria deal with devastating earthquake damage and is in contact with Turkish authorities.

Hans Kluge, head of the WHO in Europe, said Monday that regional offices of the United Nations agency in the eastern Mediterranean were assisting the expanding international effort to swiftly transport medicine and relief equipment to quake-hit areas.

Kluge wrote in a tweet, “Amid the devastation wrought by today’s earthquake in Turkey ‒ a WHO Europe member state ‒ and Syria, deep condolences to all affected communities.”

Japan’s Foreign Ministry says the country is sending a group of about 75 rescue workers to Turkey to help in search and rescue operations.

Civil defense workers and residents search through the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Harem near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful earthquake has caused significant damage in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared. Damage was reported across several Turkish provinces, and rescue teams were being sent from around the country. | Ghaith Alsayed/AP

An advance team of 18 people, including officials from the ministry, police, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, Japan Coast Guard, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is to leave later Monday to set up their operation.

The ministry said Japan is dispatching the team as part of its emergency humanitarian support at the request of the Turkish government and based on humanitarian considerations as well as Japan’s friendship with Turkey.

Separately, the Swiss rescue dog service REDOG said it is preparing to send 22 rescuers with 14 dogs to the earthquake-hit region of Turkey.

Russian officials say the country’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has called his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar to offer condolences over the quake and propose assistance.

Moscow is planning to send help to Turkey and Syria despite its western-led international isolation due to the war in Ukraine.

Earlier Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to express his condolences.

In the telegram made public by the Kremlin, Putin said Russia is ready to “provide the necessary assistance” and offered his “profound condolences on the numerous fatalities and massive destruction caused by a powerful earthquake in your country.”

The Russian president also conveyed “sincere sympathy and support to the families of the deceased and wishes of a speedy recovery to everyone injured in this calamity.”

The European Union’s top foreign policy official says ten member states are providing urban search and rescue teams to help Turkey deal with massive earthquake damage.

In a joint statement, High Representative Josep Borrell and the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic said teams have been mobilized from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania to support the first responders on the ground.

Italy, Spain, and Slovakia have offered their rescue teams to Turkey as well.

They said the EU’s Copernicus satellite system had also been activated to provide emergency mapping services.

Greece and the Czech Republic announced details of their rescue missions, and are sending rescuers, rescue dogs, specialized vehicles, structural engineers, doctors, and seismic planning experts.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed “deep sorrow” over the earthquake, adding that Greece is “placing all our rescue forces at Turkey’s disposal depending on what else they may ask us for.” A spokesperson for the Lebanese Red Cross told The Associated Press that Lebanon’s government is sending a team consisting of Lebanese army soldiers, Red Cross and Civil Defense first responders, and firefighters to Turkey to help with its rescue efforts.

Russia’s Rosatom company, which is building a nuclear power plant in the southern Turkish province of Mersin, some 270 kilometers (170 miles) from the epicenter, said the site was not affected by the quake.

In a statement Monday, Anastasia Zoteeva, general manager at the Akkuyu plant, said experts have not detected any damage to the buildings, equipment, and cranes and that construction and assembly work are continuing at the site.

Turkey’s disaster management agency has reported that a new earthquake of magnitude 7.6 occurred close to the epicenter of Monday’s previous deadly quake, which also generated dozens of aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the magnitude of the latest shock that occurred around 1024 GMT at 7.5 magnitude, with a depth of just 10 kilometers. Shallow earthquakes cause more damage.

It put the temblor near the town of Ekinozu, Turkey, also close to the southeastern city of Gaziantep which has a population of 2 million people and where the temperatures on Monday were hovering just above freezing. Orhan Tatar, an official from the Turkish disaster agency, told reporters that the two quakes were independent of each other. He said hundreds of aftershocks were expected after both.

The latest shock was felt as far as the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, where people took to social media to post footage of swaying curtains, while employees working in some high-rise buildings in the capital, Nicosia, quickly rushed outside.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said offers for help had been received from some 45 countries in the aftermath of Monday’s deadly earthquake and powerful, still ongoing aftershocks.

Some 3,000 buildings collapsed in the earthquake, he said. His announcement brought the death toll in Turkey and neighboring Syria to more than 1,300 people.

“Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise,” Erdogan said.

“Our hope is that we recover from this disaster with the least loss of life possible, he added. “I pray that God protects us and all humanity from such natural disasters.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said members of the alliance were mobilizing support to help Turkey deal with the aftermath of Monday’s devastating earthquake. Stoltenberg expressed “full solidarity with our ally Turkey in the aftermath of this terrible earthquake … NATO Allies are mobilizing support now.”

In a tweet, Stoltenberg said he was in contact with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Several NATO members have already said they are planning to send support to help victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Earlier, the European Union’s EU Civil Protection Mechanism said it had been activated to help provide international assistance, noting that rescue teams from the Netherlands and Romania were already on their way.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it would donate $200,000 to help Turkey with the rescue efforts and was coordinating with Turkey about sending specialized search and rescue teams. China also said there are no Chinese citizens among the victims. It did not say if it would be sending search and rescue teams.

Russia says it is readying rescue teams to fly to Turkey to help earthquake victims there and in neighboring Syria.

A minister of emergency situations, Aleksandr Kurenkov, said teams of 100 search and rescue personnel are on standby to be sent to Turkey with two Il-76 transport planes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also offered condolences in telegrams to the leaders of Syria and Turkey and expressed readiness to help.

The offer was made despite Russia’s international isolation led by Western nations over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says a search and rescue team from the Netherlands will travel to the region of southeastern Turkey and northern Syria that was hit by a devastating earthquake.

“Terrible news about the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Our thoughts are with all the victims of this severe natural disaster,” Rutte said in a tweet Monday. He said he had sent condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Dutch organization Urban Search and Rescue sends teams, including rescue workers, construction experts, doctors, nurses, and sniffer dogs to the scenes of disasters around the world.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also offered help.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says authorities are preparing to send aid and assistance to Turkey following the deadly earthquake there. He said Israel was readying to send search and rescue teams and medical aid, after a request from Turkey’s government.

The two countries, once close regional allies, are in the process of mending ties after years of tensions.

Meanwhile, from neighboring Egypt, where the quake was also felt, the head of the Arab League called on the international community to also aid the Syrian people in the aftermath of the quake.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the secretary-general of the pan-Arab organization, wrote on Twitter that international assistance is required to help those impacted by “this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry has offered condolences on the loss of life in Turkey and Syria.

The neighboring country said it is sending rescue teams to Turkey to assist local authorities there to deal with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

Bulgaria’s defense minister announced that two Spartan military transport aircraft will take off to the city of Adana in southeast Turkey with emergency teams of firefighters, rescue workers, and medics.

Turkey’s neighbor Greece and other countries in the region have offered to send immediate assistance to help with the rescue effort after Monday’s devastating earthquake that struck southeast Turkey and northern Syria.

“Greece is mobilizing its resources and will assist immediately … (we are) deeply saddened by the devastating earthquake disaster,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in a tweet. Writing in Turkish, Israeli President Isaac Herzog offered help in a message on Twitter, adding: “The State of Israel is always ready to send aid by any means possible. Our hearts go out to the families and Turkish people who are grieving at this painful time.” The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in a statement early Monday, offered help to both Turkey and Syria following the powerful earthquake.

The deadly quake was felt in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and across parts of the region. The offers of assistance were made despite strained relations between Turkey and several countries in the area including Greece and Egypt.

“Unfortunately, at the same time, we are also struggling with extremely severe weather conditions. Despite these weather conditions, we are trying to reach the region as quickly as possible,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters.

Oktay said close to 2,800 search and rescue teams have been deployed in the disaster-stricken areas. On top of 1,150 teams from the country’s disaster management agency, the gendarmerie, police, and military rescue teams were also deployed. More than 1,000 rescuers attached to volunteer search and rescue groups were also involved in the efforts. The president of war-torn Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has sent a message of support to Turkey to offer assistance in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday. “I am shocked to learn of deaths and injuries of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey,” Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet. “We send our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. At this time, we stand by the friendly Turkish people and are ready to provide the necessary assistance.”

Parts of the Gaziantep Castle’s walls and watch towers were leveled while other areas of the structure were damaged, images from the region showed.

The castle was first used as a watch tower and was expanded into a castle during Roman times. It underwent renovation numerous times, the last time in the early 2000s.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan says he has told Turkish officials the United States is ready to provide assistance to help with the earthquake rescue effort. In a tweet, Sullivan said the U.S. was “profoundly concerned by today’s destructive earthquake” in Turkey and Syria.

“I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with (Turkey),” Sullivan said.


Associated Press
Associated Press

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