Live Updates | Turkey, Syria quake is deadliest in decade


The catastrophic earthquake that razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria became one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade Wednesday and the death toll kept rising, surpassing 11,000.

Rescue crews braved freezing overnight temperatures in quake-hit areas in both countries in hopes of reaching more survivors and to pull more bodies from the rubble.

The latest on the earthquake:

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The European Union says Syria has asked for humanitarian assistance to deal with the victims of the devastating earthquake and insisted sanctions that it has imposed on the Syrian government had no impact on its potential to help.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said Wednesday that Syria had asked for anything from search and rescue aid to medicine and food. He said the EU was encouraging its members to contribute and denied that sanctions were affecting the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The government in Syria, wracked by a 12-year civil war and refugee crisis, has been under EU sanctions since 2011 for its suppression of the population. The sanctions include the freezing of funds and travel bans on hundreds of people and entities. They are focused on paralyzing sectors of the economy from which the regime profits.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

— Wreckage, rescue and hope in Turkey’s earthquake epicenter

— Aid to quake-hit Syria slowed by sanctions, war’s divisions

— A glance at some of the world’s deadliest earthquakes in the last 25 years

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/earthquakes

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German lawmakers stood for a minute of silence to honor the earthquake victims ahead of a speech to parliament by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Scholz said Wednesday that Germany is helping Turkey and was in close contact with the United Nations on getting humanitarian aid to the Syrian earthquake area “because the need is enormous there, too.”

He said that the disaster shows again “how vital this cross-border access is that we have advocated for years.”

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Volunteer rescue organization White Helmets says six people, including four children, were pulled out of the rubble alive during overnight rescue operations in rebel-held parts of northwest Syria.

In the town of Harem, paramedics were able to communicate with a woman and her son until they were pulled out of a collapsed building. The boy was able to walk but appeared dazed as two paramedics helped him to safety.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toured a temporary shelter area in the city of Kahramanmaras, where more than 200 tents have been set up on the grounds of a stadium to house earthquake survivors.

He was later scheduled to travel to the quake’s epicenter in the town of Pazarcik and to Turkey’s most affected province, Hatay

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Turkey’s stock exchange stopped trading after circuit breakers were tripped by sharp declines in the benchmark BIST index following Monday’s devastating quake.

The Borsa Istanbul’s public disclosure platform announced the suspension on Wednesday. It said trading in equities, futures and the derivatives markets had been suspended, but gave no further details.

The benchmark had fallen more than 7% earlier in the morning. It sank 8.6% on Tuesday. The catastrophe has added to the country’s woes as it contends with high inflation and an economic downturn.

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A former journalist described seeing the removal of eight bodies from a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Malatya in temperatures dropping to minus 6 degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit).

Ozel Pikal told the Associated Press by telephone on Wednesday how the bodies were placed side by side and covered in blankets as rescuers waited for vehicles to take them to morgues. He said he thinks the victims may have frozen to death.

Pikal spoke of “no hope left” in the southeastern city because “no one is coming out alive from the rubble.” He said more than 100 people may be trapped in a collapsed hotel, adding that there was a shortage of “professional” rescue teams in the area he was in.

Pikal said more earth-moving machines are needed because “our hands cannot pick up anything because of the cold.” He said the elderly and children are having a particularly difficult time as residents are staying in tents pitched on ice.

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Rescuers have pulled 10 people out of the rubble alive in the Turkish city of Besni, including four children, Polish officials said.

The commander of the Polish rescue team in the city, Grzegorz Borowiec, said on Polish television channel TVN24 on Wednesday that more than 30 buildings have collapsed in the city of some 37,000 residents.

Borowiec said it crews 12 hours to get through several layers of concrete to pull a woman out alive.

The Polish contingent includes 76 rescuers and eight trained dogs.

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The bodies of more than 100 Syrians who died in Turkey as a result of the earthquake have been brought back home for burial through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

Mazen Alloush, an official on the Syrian side of the border said Wednesday that 20 more bodies were on their way to the border, adding that all of them were Syrian refugees who fled war in their country.

Turkey is home to some 3.6 million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country that broke out 12 years ago.

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Pope Francis is asking for prayers and demonstrations of solidarity for the people of Syria and Turkey following the earthquake there.

Francis led hundreds of people gathered for his weekly general audience Wednesday in reciting the “Hail Mary” prayer. He offered thanks to the rescue workers searching for survivors and the people caring for residents left homeless.

The pope said that his thoughts go now to the people of Turkey and Syria and that it’s “with sadness” that he prays for them, expressing “my closeness to the people, the relatives of victims and all those who are suffering from this devastating calamity.”

Francis also asked for prayers for Ukrainians, particularly those without heat or electricity in frigid temperatures.

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The Mediterranean island nation of Malta is sending a contingent of 32 people and a rescue dog to Turkey to help with rescue efforts following the earthquake.

Malta’s Civil Protection Department is also collecting items from the general public to send as aid. The Maltese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it would be sending financial support to Syrians affected by the quake via the International Rescue Committee.

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The United Nations says it’s “exploring all avenues” to get supplies to rebel-held northwestern Syria, and it released $25 million from its emergency fund to help kick-start the humanitarian response in Turkey and Syria.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the road leading to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey to northern Syria was damaged, temporarily disrupting aid delivery to the rebel-held northwest. He said the border crossing itself “is actually intact.”

Bab al-Hawa is the only crossing through which U.N. aid is allowed into the area.

Dujarric said the U.N. 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.

In Turkey, Dujarric said, Syrian refugees make up more than 1.7 million of the 15 million people inhabiting the 10 provinces impacted by the earthquake.



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