The devastating EARTHQUAKE: thousands died, heritage sites destroyed
Shafaq News/ A woman has given birth to a baby girl while buried underneath the ruins in northwestern Syria, and; a man survived after two days under the rubble in Turkiye.
Hopes ups and downs and rescuers race to pull survivors from earthquake rubble before they succumb to cold weather in southern Turkiye and northern Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 affected provinces to facilitate the work of the emergency teams.
He considered the earthquake “unique in the world” and thanked Qatar for offering 10,000 container homes for homeless people.
Erdogan said 13 million people were affected, and the number could be as high as 23 million people, according to the World Health Organization.
So far, the death toll in Syria and Turkiye has overpassed 7,200 and is expected to rise.
Turkiye’s emergency management agency said the total number of deaths in the country had passed 5,400, with some 31,000 people injured.
In Syria, the rescue operation is more complicated as the quake-affected area is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, surrounded by government forces and borders Turkiye.
The head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Khaled Hboubati, urged the United States and the European Union to lift the sanctions imposed on Syria, saying the country needs help following the earthquake.
“I call on for the lifting of sanctions on Syria. This is the most important thing for us,” Hboubati told a news conference in Damascus, highlighting the need for construction machinery for the rescue effort.
Sanctions by the United States, the European Union, and some Arab countries have been in place since 2011 after President Bashar Assad’s government cracked down on protests against his rule.
According to the Syrian Health Ministry, over 800 died, and about 1,500 were injured.
While at least 1,000 people have been killed, 2400 were wounded in the rebel-held northwest.
Many countries and organizations rushed to help the two disaster areas, a significant difference between the international response to Ankara and Damascus.
The United Nations says it released $25 million from its emergency fund to help kick-start the humanitarian response in Turkiye and Syria.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay says some 3,294 search and rescue teams from 14 countries have joined the efforts. He said the units were being transferred to the worst-hit provinces of Hatay, Kahramanmaras, and Adiyaman.
He listed the countries sending teams as the Czech Republic, France, Malta, the Netherlands, India, Poland, Algeria, Italy, Moldova, Albania, Israel, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Germany, Serbia, Slovakia, Qatar, Britain, and Russia.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the road leading to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, the only crossing through which UN aid is allowed into northern Syria, was damaged, temporarily disrupting aid delivery to the rebel-held northwest. However, he said the border crossing itself “is intact.”
Dujarric said the UN is preparing a convoy to cross the conflict lines within Syria. But that would likely require a new agreement with President Bashar Assad’s government, which has laid siege to rebel-held areas throughout the civil war.
The US flights also carried 100,000 pounds of specialized equipment to cut through concrete and carry out the rough work of extracting trapped survivors.
The United Arab Emirates says it will provide $100 million in earthquake relief to Syria and Turkiye.
Jordan, which borders Syria, says it will dispatch planes loaded with search-and-rescue equipment, tents, and medical supplies, along with 99 rescuers and five doctors to assist relief efforts in Turkiye and Syria.
The Palestinian Authority says 57 Palestinian refugees have died in the powerful quake in Turkiye and Syria.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif set up a relief fund for quake-hit Turkiye, urging people to donate generously.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi phoned Syria’s leader Bashar Assad Tuesday, offering condolences for earthquake victims.
It was the first call between the two leaders in over a decade.
According to an Egyptian presidential statement, el-Sissi said his government would send humanitarian aid to Syria.
Armenia’s foreign minister says his country has offered to help Syria and Turkiye respond to the deadly quake, despite complex relations between Yerevan and Ankara.
The European Union says 19 member countries have now offered support to Turkiye after the activation of the bloc’s civil protection mechanism by Istanbul.
Non-EU members Albania and Montenegro are coordinating with the EU and Turkiye and have also offered rescue teams in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Iraq and Lebanon were also among the countries that sent teams to Syria and Turkiye.
The earthquake also destroyed many heritage sites.
UNESCO expressed concern about the situation in ancient Aleppo in Syria, which is on the list of endangered World Heritage.
“Significant damage has been noted in the citadel. The western tower of the old city wall has collapsed, and several buildings in the souks have been weakened,” the United Nations’s culture agency said.
In Turkiye, UNESCO deplores the collapse of several buildings at the World Heritage site of Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape, an essential center of the Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman periods. Other places on the World Heritage List not far from the epicenter could also be affected, such as Göbekli Tepe, Nemrut Dağ, and Tell of Arslantepe.
UNESCO said it mobilizes its experts and partners, such as ICOMOS, to establish a precise inventory of the damage to rapidly secure and stabilize these sites.