Earthquake death toll exceeds 34,000 across Turkey and Syria — and is expected to rise

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1 min ago

EU Commission chief pledges extra support for Turkey in call with President Erdogan

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Sharon Braithwaite

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has promised to bolster aid for Turkey as the country grapples with the aftermath of last Monday’s devastating earthquake. 

In a phone call Sunday, Von der Leyen told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “the Commission will mobilize additional support and respond to Türkiye’s latest request for more shelter capacity — in particular tents, blankets, heaters,” according to an EU readout of the call. 

Von der Leyen conveyed her “deepest condolences and those of the European Union for the catastrophic loss of life and destruction caused by the recent earthquake,” the readout added. 

The EU hopes to drum up additional funding for Turkey and Syria during a donor conference set to be held in Brussels in March. 

In a news release Wednesday, the bloc said its operation in the impacted regions is one of the “largest ever search and rescue operations” carried out through its Civil Protection Mechanism. A total of 21 EU member states and three participating states have so far offered 38 response teams, consisting of 1,651 people and 106 search and rescue dogs, according to the readout.

5 min ago

UN aid convoys entered northwest Syria over the weekend

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi and Chris Liakos

A convoy of 10 United Nations aid trucks entered northwest Syria through the Bab Al-Hawa Turkish border crossing on Sunday, UNOCHA spokesperson Madevi Sun-Suon said.

The trucks from the UN’s International Organization for Migrants (IOM) carried comprehensive shelter kits, Sun-Suon said.

She said it comes after 22 UN vehicles crossed through Bab Al-Hawa on Saturday, including:

  • 12 trucks from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • 7 trucks from the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • 2 trucks from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • 1 truck from the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

The delivery of urgent supplies to quake-hit areas of northern Syria, much of which is held by rebels, has been complicated by the country’s long-running civil war.

On Sunday, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, tweeted from the Turkey-Syria border saying the people of northwest Syria “rightly feel abandoned.”

“We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria,” Griffiths said adding that his focus and obligation now is “to correct this failure as fast as we can.”

5 hr 12 min ago

Investigator — who uncovered atrocities in Syria — killed by the quake in Turkey, organization says

From CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh and Celine Alkhaldi 

A nonprofit leader who uncovered injustices in Syria with powerful investigations was killed in the February 6 earthquake in Turkey with his family, the organization said Sunday.

“It is with the deepest sorrow that we announce the death of our Deputy Chief of the Syria Investigations Unit, Mustafa, and his family,” the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) said in a statement. 

“Mustafa, his wife Rola, their beautiful children Tala, Hanin, Mays and Omar all perished in the devastating earthquake that struck North-Western Syria and Turkey on 06 February 2023,” the statement said. 

“Mustafa was from Ar Rastan, Homs which is where his investigative journey began. A trained lawyer, he was a highly skilled international crimes investigator who secured enormous troves of evidence inside Syria,” the statement said. 

“Over the last twelve years he has made invaluable contributions to the quest for truth and justice about atrocities against the Syrian people. Not least to the case of (Marie) Colvin v Syrian Arab Republic, which established the truth about the brutal campaign of sniping and shelling of the people of Homs in 2012,” the statement added. 

CIJA Director for Management and External Relations Nerma Jelacic said she met with Mustafa in Turkey last week “to plan a new future for his family, a future in which his enormous work on Syria investigations would be publicly recognized.” 

“He has done so much … He was a great investigator but his soul never hardened through the years. He remained the softest, friendliest person you could imagine,” Jelacic told CNN.   

Powerful work: Mustafa and his team, sometimes known as the “document hunters,” have worked to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime accountable for heinous crimes. Syrian officials have repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, insisting that they target terrorists and not peaceful protesters. 

The team, trained by former war crimes investigators and lawyers, smuggled hundreds of thousands of government documents out of war zones. Often sprinting past explosions and sniper fire to bring the papers to safety, they risk their lives to help hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable.

CNN was granted access in 2019 by CIJA to witness firsthand how over 800,000 pages of regime documents have been smuggled out of Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. 

Since 2012, CIJA has sought to ensure that evidence of alleged war crimes in Syria is compiled and preserved for future trials.

About CIJA: A nonprofit organization funded by Western governments, CIJA has acquired over 800,000 Syrian intelligence and security documents. Over the years, it has used these papers to build cases against senior and former officials implicated in some of the regime’s most brutal human rights abuses. 

4 hr 18 min ago

More than 34,000 people have died across Turkey and Syria after devastating earthquake

From Eyad Kourdi in Gaziantep

A person visits the graves of people who lost their lives in the earthquake in Adiyaman, Turkey, on February 11.
A person visits the graves of people who lost their lives in the earthquake in Adiyaman, Turkey, on February 11. (Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images)

The death toll across Turkey and Syria following Monday’s catastrophic earthquake has reached at least 34,179 on Sunday. 

The death toll in Turkey has reached 29,605, Turkish Emergency Coordination Center SAKOM said Sunday. 

The confirmed death toll in Syria is 4,574. That number includes more than 3,160 in opposition-held parts of northwestern Syria, according to the health ministry of the Salvation Government governance authority.

The Syrian death toll also includes 1,414 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to state news agency SANA.

6 hr 38 min ago

WHO waiting for final approval to send deliveries into rebel-held northwest Syria

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Chris Liakos

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is waiting for final approval to send crossline deliveries into northwest Syria, where rebel groups in the country’s long-running civil war control territory and aid deliveries have faced obstacles.

The WHO hopes its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will soon be able to travel into the rebel-held areas hit by Monday’s devastating earthquake, the organization said Sunday.

Tedros and a team of top WHO officials arrived in Aleppo on Saturday on a humanitarian aid flight carrying over $290,000 worth of trauma emergency and surgical kits.

Rick Brennan, a regional emergency director with the WHO, said in a media briefing from Damascus Sunday that there have been “no crossline deliveries” into northwest Syria since the earthquake struck Monday. 

“We have one scheduled in the next couple of days. We are still negotiating for that to go ahead,” Brennan said, adding that before the earthquake the WHO was “planning a significant expansion of our crossline work.”

According to Brennan, the WHO has the approval of the Syrian government in Damascus but is waiting for the “approval … from entities on the other side.”

“We are working very, very hard to negotiate that access,” Brennan stressed.

On Sunday, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths tweeted that “trucks with UN relief are rolling into north-west Syria,” posting pictures of trucks being loaded for cross-border deliveries. Although he said he was “encouraged by the scale-up of convoys from the UN transshipment centre at the Turkish border,” the aid chief stressed the need to “open more access points” to get aid out quicker. 

This call was echoed by Raed Al Saleh, the head of volunteer organization the White Helmets, in a tweet Sunday. Al Saleh said that after meeting with Griffiths at the Turkish-Syrian border Sunday, his group had appreciated the “apology for the shortcomings & mistakes,” made. He called on the UN to act now outside the Security Council to “open 3 crossings for emergency aid” to northwest Syria. 

An already struggling health care system: The WHO official reiterated that even before the earthquake, only 51% of medical facilities in government-held Syria were fully functional, with around 25% to 30% at partial capacity. He said that although the WHO does not have access to the same level of data when it comes to medical care in northwest, they estimated “probably similar figures” as far as capacity is concerned.

“I think this is one of these cases where 10 years of war, or 10 years of instability, have just pulverized this health system to a point where it just can’t deliver adequately,” said Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

“That’s not only physical damage to the infrastructure itself, but the loss of salaries, loss of training. And it’s just been that ‘death by 1000 cuts’ to the system, and then the system has reacted admirably to what’s been a massive disaster, but people can only do so much,” Ryan remarked.

7 hr 21 min ago

Survivors are still being rescued after nearly a week under the rubble. Here are some of their stories

From CNN’s Amarachi Orie

Rescue workers carry Yigit Cakmak from the site of a collapsed building in Hatay, Turkey, on Wednesday, February 8.
Rescue workers carry Yigit Cakmak from the site of a collapsed building in Hatay, Turkey, on Wednesday, February 8. (Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Five days after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, teams are rushing to save victims that could still be alive under rubble, with a UN liaison officer in Turkey warning that they are “approaching the end of the search and rescue window.”

While calling on the international community to “act immediately” in providing humanitarian aid to Syria, Syrian-American actor Jay Abdo told CNN on Saturday that civilians were “racing against time” to rescue loved ones.

More than 25,000 people have died across both countries, according to authorities.

However, in the midst of tragedy, there have been miraculous scenes of survival and rescue, even days after the quake.

Here’s a list of survivors who, against the odds, were found among the wreckage:

  • A teenage girl, Ayşe (Reem Khaled Naasani), was rescued in Hatay Sunday some 162 hours after the quake, according to the Istanbul mayor. And a 50-year-old woman named Guler Agritmis was also rescued Sunday after spending days under the rubble, the Turkish state broadcaster TRT reports.
  • Sixty-seven-year-old Abdulkerim Bey and his wife, Senem, were found under the rubble during the sixth day of rescues by Gendarmerie Search and Rescue team in Kahramanmaras on Saturday, according to CNN affiliate CNN Turk.
  • A 16-year-old-boy named Hedil was also rescued alive from the Zümrüt apartment in Kahramanmaras, CNN Turk reports.
  • In Gaziantep, Turkey, 132 hours after the earthquake struck, Sezai Karabas was rescued shortly after his young daughter. According to CNN Turk, he pleaded with rescuers to search for his wife next, who he believed is still alive in a doorway. “I am forever in your debt,” he told rescuers.
  • Around the same time, rescue workers lifted a 34-year-old man, Ergin Guzeldogan, from deep within the ground in the province of Hatay, video from the Municipality of Istanbul showed.
  • A 70-year-old woman, named as Menekse Tabak, was rescued from the rubble in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, 121 hours after the quake hit.
  • A 16-year-old boy was pulled out alive from wreckage in the same region just a few hours earlier. Another teenage survivor, a boy aged 14, was found after 24 hours.
  • The same city saw the discovery of multiple families, including two brothers and their mother who were rescued after 78 hours, and a mother and her 6-year-old daughter who were found after 68 hours.
  • In what a CNN Turk reporter called a “miracle escape,” six people, including one child, were pulled out of the rubble alive in the 60th hour in the center of Kahramanmaras.
  • Sisters Fatma and Merve Demir were rescued from under concrete in Turkey on Wednesday, after spending 62 hours beneath a collapsed building.
  • A similar situation transpired in Syria, where two children were wedged between concrete for 36 hours, with one sister shielding the other, before they were rescued.
  • A child, 8-year-old Yigit Cakmak, was rescued from a collapsed building in Turkey’s Hatay province, 52 hours after the initial earthquake struck the region. He was captured in the arms of his mother after they were reunited.
  • A 10-year old was found alive in the same region after 90 hours, where a 21-year-old man was rescued six hours earlier.
  • A newborn baby girl was found alive in Syria on Tuesday with her umbilical cord still attached to her mother, who is believed to have died after giving birth.

Watch a report from CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh here:

Survivors pulled from rubble after being trapped for over 100 hours | CNN

7 hr 42 min ago

Magnitude 4.6 aftershock strikes Turkey’s earthquake-hit zone, government says

From CNN’s Gul Tuysuz

A magnitude 4.6 aftershock struck Turkey’s earthquake zone on Sunday according to AFAD, the country’s disaster management body.

9 hr 9 min ago

Baby rescued from rubble in Turkey’s Hatay province after 108 hours

From CNN’s Isil Sariyuce

A baby was rescued in Turkey’s Hatay province 108 hours after the deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, according to Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Sunday.

According to CNN affiliate CNN Turk, the baby is two months old.

Koca also posted videos of the baby to Twitter, and said he survived despite being hungry for hours. The baby is in Adana City Hospital now and is in good health, according to Koca.

Turkish state broadcaster also showed a video of the baby smiling and laughing, saying he was alive after “arduous efforts to rescue” him.

8 hr 10 min ago

Greek and Turkish foreign ministers exchange words of gratitude during visit to earthquake zone

From CNN’s Chris Liakos

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias inspect a quake-hit region in Hatay, Turkey, on February 12.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias inspect a quake-hit region in Hatay, Turkey, on February 12. (Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived in Turkey on Sunday to meet his counterpart, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in light of Monday’s deadly earthquake and the subsequent assistance Greece offered.

Greece and Turkey are often at odds over territorial disputes and migration, regularly trading threats and blame. But diplomatic tension eased this week following the quake.

Greece – a country that also sees regular earthquakes – was one of the first to send assistance for search and rescue operations.

The two ministers met in the southern Turkish city of Adana where, in a rare sight of solidarity, they embraced before departing for Hatay to meet the Greek rescue mission operating in devastated areas, according to a video by Turkish state news agency Anadolu and the official Twitter page of the Greek foreign minister.

They later held a short televised presser in Hatay, during which Cavusoglu thanked the Greek government and its people for their solidarity.

“Greece was one of the first countries to call Turkey immediately after the earthquake struck, and offer to help. They immediately dispatched their search and rescue teams; and conveyed humanitarian relief to Turkey with a large number of planes,” Cavusoglu said.

“Good neighbors prove their worth on days such as this,” said the Turkish foreign minister, adding that there was no need to wait for another disaster to improve relations between the two neighbors.

“With each survivor rescued, we have seen happiness lighting up the faces of both members of the Greek teams, and the Greek people as a whole,” said Cavusoglu.

Earlier this week, Greek public broadcaster ERT showed a live rescue of a 6-year-old girl in Hatay by the Greek rescue team, which was widely shared on Greek and Turkish social media. The Greek rescue team and locals were seen clapping and hugging with tears of joy.

Dendias, who is the first European foreign minister to visit the earthquake zone, said Sunday that Greece would “do whatever it can to support Turkey in this very difficult moment.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in a Facebook post Sunday: “We may have political differences, but the people of Greece and Turkey are friends.”

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