Turkey death toll, Syria quake tops 33,000 as Turkey launches legal action

Antakya, Turkey—Rescue workers pulled more survivors out of the rubble on Sunday, six days after the worst earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.

With the chances of finding more survivors further afield, tolls in both countries from Monday’s quake and large aftershocks topped 33,000 and looked set to continue rising.The deadliest in Turkey since 1939. It was an earthquake.

Displaced people in Kahramanmaras, a Turkish city near the epicenter, said they pitched tents near their damaged or destroyed homes to prevent looting.

President Tayyip Erdogan questioned the response to the earthquake and promised to start rebuilding within weeks.

In Syria, the rebel-held northwest was hit hardest by the disaster, leaving many people displaced several times already by the civil war a decade ago, left homeless again. The area receives little aid compared to government-held areas.

“We have so far disappointed the people of northwestern Syria,” said the UN’s border crossing, which has only one border crossing open for UN aid. Aid chief Martin Griffiths wrote on Twitter:

“It’s natural that they feel abandoned,” said Griffiths, adding that he’s focused on addressing it quickly.

turkey syria earthquake
A child stands outside a tent built for those affected by a devastating earthquake in the Syrian rebel-controlled town of Jandalis on February 11, 2023. (Mahmoud Hassano/Reuters)

More than six days after the first quake struck, emergency workers still found a handful of people still risking their lives among the wreckage of homes that had become the graves of thousands. I found

Rescuers rescued 54-year-old Syrian Malik Mirandi after surviving 156 hours in rubble in the city of Antakya in southern Turkey.

Such scenes have become rare as the death toll rises inexorably.

At a funeral near Reyhanli, veiled women cried and beat their chests as bodies were unloaded from trucks.

A Kahramanmaras resident said he had not yet buried his relatives because he did not have enough funeral cloths to wrap them in. On the road into town, large trucks were piled full of wooden coffins.

Security Concerns and Detention Orders

Along the main road to Antakya, several buildings remained with large cracks and sunken facades as rescuers asked for silence to detect signs of life remaining beneath the ruins. , the traffic stopped at times.

The quality of the country’s buildings, which lie on several seismic fault lines, has drawn attention in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Vice President Fuat Oktay said 131 suspects have so far been identified as responsible for the collapse of some of the thousands of buildings that collapsed in the 10 affected states.

“We will follow up on this very carefully until the necessary judicial process is completed, especially for buildings that have been heavily damaged or have caused casualties,” he said.

The earthquake struck as President Erdogan faces presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June. Even before the catastrophe, his popularity was waning due to rapid inflation and the collapse of the Turkish currency.

Some politicians and opposition politicians affected by the earthquake accused the government’s early relief efforts of being slow and inadequate, and critics said the military, which played a key role after the 1999 earthquake, I’m wondering why they weren’t dispatched sooner.

Erdogan acknowledged problems, including difficulties in delivering aid despite damaged transport networks, but said the situation was under control. He called for solidarity and condemned “negative” political activism.

He also warned that looters would be severely punished. Police were leading a convoy of his eight military vehicles in a relief vehicle bound for Kahramammaras.

Gizem, a rescue worker in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, said he saw looters in the city of Antakya. “Most looters have knives, so we can’t intervene much.”

An elderly resident of Kahramammaras said gold jewelry from his home had been stolen while police were deployed at the intersection of shopping streets lined with many telephone and jewelry stores in the port city of Iskenderun. .

Two German relief organizations suspended their work in Turkey on Saturday, citing reports of clashes between groups of people and highlighting safety concerns in areas hit by the earthquake.

Deferred Syria Aid

In Syria, hostilities that divided the country during its 12-year civil war are now hampering relief efforts.

Earthquake aid from government-held areas to areas controlled by hardline opposition groups has been stalled by approval issues with the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls much of the region, the UN said. spokesman said.

The UN hopes to step up its cross-border activities by opening two more border points between Turkey and rebel-held Syria for aid deliveries, it said. Person Jens Laerke said.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, a US ally, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday in the first high-level visit by an Arab official since the earthquake.

Several Arab countries provided assistance to Assad in the aftermath of the earthquake. Western powers have tried to isolate Assad after his crackdown on protests in 2011 and the eruption of a civil war, while he has contributed significantly to UN relief efforts across Syria, there has been no direct direct access to Damascus. Provides little assistance.

The first shipment of European earthquake aid to government-held areas of Syria also arrived in Damascus on Sunday.

UN relief chief Griffiths will travel to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Monday to assess the damage and launch a UN appeal to Syria, which it hopes will cover both government- and non-government-controlled areas.

The quake ranks as the sixth deadliest natural disaster in the world this century, with more than 31,000 deaths from the 2003 earthquake in neighboring Iran.

In Syria, where tolls have not been renewed for two days, more than 29,605 people have died in Turkey and more than 3,500 in Syria.

Turkey said about 80,000 people were hospitalized and more than one million were in temporary shelters.