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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Earthquake toll in Turkey and Syria continues to rise

Rescuers clearing rubble in 10 provinces of Turkey and northwestern Syria are racing against time as the time frame for survivors to climb out of the rubble shrinks. Every minute and every hour counts. Extreme weather conditions and cold in some parts of Turkey’s provinces complicate the chances of saving those who survived.

The number of confirmed victims in both countries exceeds 5,200; of these, 3,500 are in Turkey and at least 1,712 in Syria (both in government-controlled areas and in a province controlled by opposition rebel groups).

Turkey suffered at least 20,426 injuries.

International organizations report an extremely difficult situation in northwestern Syria, where around 4 million people depended on humanitarian aid even before the earthquake.

As the extent of the destruction becomes more evident, Turkish authorities fear the death toll will rise significantly. Currently, 53,317 rescuers are involved in rescue operations in Turkey.

Turkey’s Emergency and Disaster Management Authority (AFAD) said the quake destroyed 5,775 buildings and injured 20,426 people.

According to CNN, around 8,000 people have already been rescued from the rubble.

In the Mediterranean coastal province of Hatay, Turkey, eyewitnesses report calls for help from people buried under the rubble that were heard for hours after the quake. Hatay is the most affected province in Turkey with at least 872 deaths. Drone footage from Hatay shows dozens of destroyed buildings.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Tuesday that 941 buildings had completely collapsed in Kahramanmaras. The minister stressed that these are not partially damaged houses, but completely collapsed.

The fire was still raging Tuesday in the port of Iskenderun, in southern Turkey. “There is severe structural damage in this largest port and all shipping operations have been halted until further notice,” container shipping company AP Moller Maersk said on Tuesday.

Around 70 countries and 14 international organizations have offered assistance to Turkey in its search and rescue operations. The United States sent two teams of 79 rescuers to Turkey.

UNICEF spokesman James Elder said he was concerned that thousands of children had died under the rubble in Turkey. The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that it was necessary to be prepared for the fact that the death toll in Turkey and Syria could increase eightfold.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces of the country for 3 months. Erdogan said his government planned to temporarily house some 50,000 earthquake victims in tourist hotels in Antalya.

The introduction of the state of emergency, among other things, will allow Erdogan and the Turkish cabinet of ministers to pass new laws bypassing parliament, as well as restricting or suspending rights and freedoms.

Recall that on May 14, 2023, national elections are to be held in Turkey.

An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit early Monday morning, followed by a second wave a second later.

It is the biggest earthquake in Turkey since 1939, when nearly 33,000 people died in the country.

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