After strong earthquakes in southeast Turkey and northern Syria killed more than 4,600 people and destroyed buildings, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for seven days of national mourning and Syria asked the United Nations for help.
As rescuers looked for survivors among twisted metal and concrete in a region already affected by Syria’s 12-year civil war and a refugee crisis, officials worried that the death toll from Monday’s predawn earthquake, followed by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake and several aftershocks, would continue to rise.
People who were stuck under the rubble screamed for help all night and into Tuesday morning as rescuers worked. Orhan Tatar of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said that 3,381 people died and 20,426 people were hurt. Tatar also said that more than 5,700 buildings had been torn down.
On Monday night, the White Helmets rescue group and the Ministry of Health said that 1,300 people had died in Syria. The earthquake hurt and displaced thousands of people in the area, and now they have to deal with the harsh winter cold and snow.
Infrastructure damage has made it hard to look for survivors and get life-saving aid to the areas that were hit hardest by the disaster.
Sinem Koseoglu, who works for Al Jazeera and reports from Istanbul, said that millions of people need help.
We are in the middle of winter, with its cold temperatures, snow, and rain, so their need is without a doubt urgent.
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Natasha Ghoneim, who works for Al Jazeera in Istanbul, said that ten cities in southern Turkey had been declared disaster areas.
Snow that is hard to walk on and temperatures below zero have made it harder to save people, and more bad weather is on the way. Electricity and natural gas have been cut off in many places, and the government is working hard to get them back on as soon as possible.
Ghoneim said Tuesday morning that “a full picture of the disaster is just starting to come together.” He also said that the extent of the damage “will become clearer as the sun rises.”
On Monday, the area was shaken again by an earthquake-like tremor that was almost as strong as the first one.
The USGS said the first quake was 7.8 on the Richter scale and 18 kilometres deep (11 miles). Several hours later, there was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake. As terrified people screamed, multiple floors of an apartment building in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa fell into the street in a cloud of dust.
A dramatic live-action video of buildings falling down was shown on Turkish TV. Pictures showed people pulling a child out of the wreckage of a building. In the snow, the child was found and brought back to his or her sad parents.
Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s organisation for disaster management, said that about 7,800 people in 10 areas have been saved. Rescue workers said that hospitals and clinics were quickly going to be full of people who had been hurt.
The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria and southern Turkey, said in a statement that its facilities were “overwhelmed” with patients and that “trauma supplies and a comprehensive emergency response to save lives and treat the injured” were desperately needed. Turkey and Syria have been getting a lot of help from governments and nonprofit groups.
On the orders of King Abdullah II, Jordan is sending emergency supplies to Syria and Turkey, and Egypt has said it will help Turkey in an emergency. Due to a lack of money, the government of Lebanon is sending people from the Red Cross and the Civil Defense to Turkey to help.
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Across the European Union, emergency response teams have been set up, and the Copernicus satellite system has been set up to work quickly so that it can map the area in case of a disaster.
Thirteen people have already said they can help. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have said they are willing to help Syria, but the Obama administration has turned down direct talks with the Syrian government.
The German foreign ministry said that it is working with EU partners to get ready to send emergency generators, tents, blankets, and water treatment equipment.
The United States is helping NATO member Turkey right away by coordinating aid like search and rescue teams. About 100 firefighters and structural engineers from Los Angeles County were sent to Turkey to help with the rescue efforts, along with six specially trained dogs.
The Russian military in Syria has already sent 10 units with a total of 300 people to help clear the rubble and look for survivors. Now, Russian rescue teams from the Ministry of Emergencies are planning to fly there to join the effort. The Russian military has set up places where humanitarian aid can be given out. Turkey has said that it is grateful for Russia’s help.
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