Turkey and Syria earthquake: Death toll passes 7,300 as rescue mission continues

Erdogan declares three-month state of emergency as number of deaths expected to rise


Main Points

- Death toll rises to more than 7,300 as more bodies pulled from the rubble

- Erdogan imposes three-month state of emergency on 10 provinces

- Turkish ambassador to Ireland says his country will accept all forms of international aid


Syria’s state news agency SANA has said that at least 812 people were killed and 1,449 people injured in the government-held provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Idlib and Tartous, reports Reuters. At least 1,120 people were killed in Syria’s opposition-held northwest and 2,500 injured with the toll expected to “rise dramatically,” rescuers in the region said. Those figures, added to the 5,400 known to have died so far in Turkey, bring the overall death toll from Monday’s earthquakes to more than 7,300.

One of the dead is Ahmet Eyup Turkaslan, a goalkeeper with the Turkish second division football club Yeni Malatyaspor, confirmed the news on Twitter. “Our goalkeeper, Ahmet Eyup Turkaslan, lost his life after being under the collapse of the earthquake. Rest in peace,” wrote the club on social media. “We will not forget you, beautiful person.”

Many other people endure an agonising wait for news about their loved ones, as Laura Pitel reports in this article. It begins thus: “The diggers had been working around the clock on a side street of the Turkish city of Şanlıurfa when a sudden hush descended and the grinding of heavy machinery came to a halt. Then the rescue team cried out in unison: ‘Is there anyone under there?’”


So far more than 30 countries have sent rescue workers to help in Turkey and Syria, including Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced the support on social media after expressing condolences to his Turkish counterpart.


The death toll in Turkey and Syria has passed 7,100, Turkey’s health minister Fahrettin Koca has said. That includes at least 5,400 in Turkey, more than 800 in government-held Syria and at least 900 in rebel-held northeast Syria. An unknown number of people remain trapped under buildings.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said on Tuesday that it had received 11,342 reports of collapsed buildings – of which 5,775 had been confirmed – and more than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris. Turkish authorities say around 380,000 people are in government shelters or hotels; others have sought safety in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres.


Rescue efforts will continue throughout the night in Turkey and Syria, as temperatures drop to freezing.


Amid the death - of at least 6,200 people -, devastation and suffering, there are some extraordinary stories of survival.


The head of the United Nations’ central emergency response fund (CERF) has announced that $25 million (€23.3 million) has been allocated to “kick-start the humanitarian response” to the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Ami


Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad has asked European countries to send aid following the earthquake, saying that sanctions are no reason not to, he told Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV on Tuesday. Syrian officials have long argued that western sanctions have harmed reconstruction efforts in areas where the 12-year conflict has subsided, Reuters reports. The U.S. and European nations have said that sanctions aim to pressure the Syrian government into a political process that could end the conflict.


The death toll from the earthquake has risen to more than 6,200, reports Associated Press. That figure is expected to climb much higher. Rescuers are working in freezing temperatures to search for survivors, but aftershocks and damaged roads are complicating their efforts. The sheer scale of the devastation means many towns and rural areas have yet to be reached.


The Turkish defence ministry says the fire at Iskenderun Port on the Mediterranean Sea has been extinguished, Reuters reports. In the aftermath of the earthquake struck on Monday, images and videos showed burning containers and thick black smoke rising overhead.


Residents in a northwest Syrian town discovered a crying baby whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble of a five-story apartment building.

The newborn girl was found buried under the debris with her umbilical cord still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was found dead, they said.

The baby was the only member of her family to survive from the building collapse on Monday in the small town of Jinderis, next to the Turkish border, Ramadan Sleiman, a relative, said.

The rescuers found the baby in the afternoon, more than 10 hours after the earthquake struck.

A female neighbour cut the cord, and she and others rushed with the baby to a children’s hospital in the nearby town of Afrin, where she has been kept in an incubator, said the physician treating her, Dr Hani Maarouf.

The baby’s body temperature had fallen and she had bruises, including a large one on her back, but she is in stable condition, he said. - AP


Here are some of the latest images from Turkey and Syria. The extent of the devastation and suffering can be hard to comprehend.


Turkish authorities say more than 12,000 search and rescue personnel are working across the area affected by the earthquake, along with 9,000 troops. But the sheer sheer scale of the disaster is causing enormous challenges, with a massive mobilisation of manpower needed to help look for survivors. Scant information has come out of some places, raising concern about the extent of the devastation that could yet be discovered. Parts of Syria are proving especially difficult to reach.

Few rescue workers have made it so far to Antakya, Turkey’s southern-most province, forcing residents to pick through rubble sometimes without even basic tools in a desperate hunt for survivors, reports Reuters. Trying to find family, friends and neighbours, dead or alive, people are asking each other for helmets, hammers, iron rods and strong rope to lift debris as they wait for more help to arrive.

While countries have scrambled to answer Turkey’s call to send rescue teams to the afflicted areas, an array of problems from freezing wintry conditions, destroyed roads and a scarcity of trucks and heavy machinery have hampered relief efforts.

The lack of help has already prompted scuffles between residents and rescue workers in Antakya, with people pleading with rescuers to save their loved ones. In the city’s Kavasli neighbourhood, one woman, aged 54 and named Gulumser, was pulled alive from an 8-storey building 32 hours after the quake.

Another woman then shouted at the rescue workers: “My father was just behind that room she was in. Please save him.” The rescue workers explained they could not reach the room from the front and needed an excavator to remove the wall first.

“I see people here complain about the scarcity of rescue efforts, but maybe it is because there are 10 cities affected by the quake and many, many rescue teams are needed,” a rescue worker from Istanbul, who declined to be named, told Reuters. “But we are doing our best, trying to save people.”

Turkish authorities say some 13.5 million people were affected in an area spanning roughly 450 km (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east, and 300 km from Malatya in the north to Hatay in the south. Syrian authorities have reported deaths as far south as Hama, some 100 km from the epicentre.

“The area is enormous. I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Johannes Gust, a worker from Germany’s fire and rescue service, while loading equipment onto a truck at Turkey’s Adana airport.


Aid workers have had to suspend delivering aid from Turkey to north-west Syria owing to the fallout of the devastating earthquake, a UN spokesperson has said. The cross-border aid operation overseen by the United Nations since 2014 has been crucial to Syrians who fled President Bashar al-Assad’s rule during the war in Syrian, bypassing the territory he controls. Now, however, there is no clear picture of when the aid, on which some 4 million people depend, would resume, Madevi Sun-Suon, spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), told Reuters. “Some roads are broken, some are inaccessible. There are logistical issues that need to be worked through. We are exploring all avenues to reach people in need,” said Sun-Suon.

One avenue includes delivering aid via government-held territory, a process involving crossing frontlines through which aid has seldom passed during the war. The regime in Damascus has long opposed the humanitarian operation that has delivered aid into Syria from Turkey, saying assistance should be delivered via Damascus.


More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey alone, and 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, said Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay, the Associated Press reports.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said 13 million of the country’s 85 million were affected in some way.

Teams from nearly 30 countries around the world headed for Turkey or Syria.

As promises of help flooded in, Turkey said it would only allow vehicles carrying aid to enter the worst-hit provinces of Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman and Hatay in order to speed the effort.

The United Nations said it was “exploring all avenues” to get supplies to rebel-held northwestern Syria, where millions live in extreme poverty and rely on humanitarian aid to survive.


Hundreds of shipping containers were ablaze at Turkey’s Iskenderun Port on Tuesday, shutting down operations and forcing freight liners to divert vessels to other ports, according to Reuters.

Turkey’s maritime authority said on Monday that the port, located on the Mediterranean coast in the southern province of Hatay, was damaged due to the earthquake.

Drone footage showed fierce flames blackening hundreds of containers on the dock, with water jets from a fire truck dwarfed by the scale of the blaze that broke out on Monday. Thick black smoke billowed into the sky.

Leading global container shipping group AP Moller Maersk said there had been significant damage to logistics and transport infrastructure around the earthquake epicentre, including at the Port of Iskenderun.


Here are some of the latest images from Turkey and Syria.


The Turkish ambassador to Ireland, Mehmet Hakan Olcay, has said his country will accept all forms of international aid, Vivienne Clarke reports.

The number of casualties was likely to rise in the coming days, he said, as harsh winter conditions hamper rescue efforts.

Offers from volunteers have been received from more than 65 countries, including Ireland, he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.

The coming days will be critical as efforts are made to provide accommodation for those who have lost their homes or are afraid to enter buildings. All public buildings that are still standing will be opened to provide shelter. Tent villages are also being erected by international aid agencies and the Turkish Red Crescent.

The death toll could rise to 10,000 in the coming days, Mr Hakan Olcay said.

On the ground, we have over 16,000 search and rescue teams working currently, day and night, and from 65 countries. We have received 2,665 search and rescue workers. So they are working around the clock, but it does take time. And also the co-ordination is ongoing, but there’s also harsh winter conditions in the region. There’s a snowstorm or rain in some parts and also freezing temperatures. So that’s also hampering the efforts for the search and rescue operations.

“We are open for all international aid. So far this morning we have received more than 20 big boxes of aid to be sent to Turkey. So people are responding very favourably internationally,” Mr Hakan Olcay said.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Tuesday a three-month state of emergency covering Turkey’s 10 southern provinces hit by the earthquake, and called it a disaster zone in a move meant to bolster rescue efforts.

Declaring a state of emergency permits the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

“We have decided to declare a state of emergency to ensure that operations are carried out rapidly,” Mr Erdogan said.

The president also said that 70 countries had offered help in search and rescue operations and that Turkey planned to open up hotels in the tourism hub of Antalya, to the west, to temporarily house people impacted.

He said the death toll in Turkey had risen to 3,549 people.


Unicef Ireland has launched an emergency fundraising appeal for children and families impacted by the earthquake in Syria and southeast Turkey.

As rescue efforts continue, Unicef said it is concerned that the number of children killed and injured could grow over the coming hours and days.

Launching the emergency appeal, Unicef Ireland executive director Peter Power said the scale of the devastation was “vast” and “concerning”. Read more on this story here.


Here are some of the latest images from Turkey and Syria.


The World Health Organisation’s senior emergency officer, Adelheid Marschang, said 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, were likely to be exposed in Turkey and Syria following the earthquake and its aftershocks.

WHO said on Tuesday that Syria’s humanitarian needs were the highest. The organisation said it was dispatching emergency supplies, including trauma and emergency surgical kits, and activating a network of emergency medical teams.



The flow of critical United Nations aid from Turkey to northwest Syria has temporarily halted due to damage to roads and other logistical issues related to the earthquake, a UN official said.

Even before the quake struck in the early hours of Monday, the UN estimated that more than 4 million people in northwest Syria, many displaced by the war and living in camps, depended on cross-border aid.

“Some roads are broken, some are inaccessible. There are logistical issues that need to be worked through,” Madevi Sun-Suon, spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, told Reuters.

“We don’t have a clear picture of when it will resume,” she said.


Unicef said on Tuesday that the earthquake and aftershocks that destroyed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria may have killed thousands of children.

“The earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria early yesterday morning may have killed thousands of children,” Unicef spokesman James Elder told reporters at a briefing in Geneva.

He added the organisation could not determine a specific death toll of children.


Former Newcastle midfielder Christian Atsu has been rescued from the rubble of a Turkish building which collapsed during the earthquake in the country on Monday, according to the Ghana Football Association.

The 31-year-old Ghana international, now playing with Turkish Super Lig side Hatayspor, was unaccounted for alongside his club’s sporting director Taner Savut in the aftermath of the disaster.

There were conflicting reports about Mr Atsu’s status on Monday evening, but Ghana’s national football governing body provided an update on social media on Tuesday morning.

A Ghana Football Association tweet read: “Update: We’ve received some positive news that Christian Atsu has been successfully rescued from the rubble of the collapsed building and is receiving treatment. Let’s continue to pray for Christian.”


Death toll passes 5,000 as rescue mission continues

The death toll from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks rose to more than 5,000 on Tuesday as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Turkey’s vice-president, Fuat Oktay, said the total number of deaths in Turkey had risen to 3,419, with another 20,534 people injured. That brought the number of people killed to 5,102, with another 1,602 people confirmed dead on the Syrian side of the border.

The earthquake struck early on Monday, bringing down thousands of buildings. Rescuers were racing frantically to find more survivors but their efforts were being impeded by temperatures below freezing and some 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.

In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 30km from the epicentre, people took refuge in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared seven days of national mourning.

The quake, which was located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.

Tremors were also felt in Lebanon, Greece, Israel, Iraq and the island of Cyprus.

On the Syrian side, the area is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.

In the rebel-held enclave, hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organisation known as the White Helmets said in a statement.

The area is packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many live in buildings that are already wrecked from military bombardments.

Strained medical centres quickly filled with injured people, rescue workers said. Some facilities had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the Sams medical organisation.

More than 7,800 people were rescued across 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s disaster management authority.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

The US Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 17km. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude temblor, likely triggered by the first, struck more than 95km away.

The second jolt caused a multi-storey apartment building in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to topple on to the street in a cloud of dust as bystanders screamed, according to video of the scene.

Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 320km to the northeast.

In Turkey alone, more than 5,600 buildings were destroyed, authorities said. Hospitals were damaged, and one collapsed in the city of Iskenderun.

Offers of help – from search and rescue teams to medical supplies and money – poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and Nato.

The vast majority were for Turkey, with a Russian and even an Israeli promise of help to the Syrian government, but it was not clear if any would go to the devastated rebel-held pocket in the northwest.

The opposition’s Syrian civil defence described the situation in the enclave as “disastrous”.

The opposition-held area, located on the province of Idlib, has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government air strikes.

The territory depends on a flow of aid from Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies. – Agencies