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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Disaster. “Tragedy and chaos”: in Syria and Turkey, rescue teams are overwhelmed

In the aftermath of the earthquake that killed more than 6,200 people and destroyed thousands of buildings in southern Turkey and northern Syria, several dozen violent aftershocks shook the region again on Tuesday [7 février]. But the difficult conditions, the freezing temperatures and the damage suffered by the roads are hampering the rescue operations.

The catastrophic toll of the earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, continues to grow, and the World Health Organization (WHO) fears more than 20,000 victims in total. The quake devastated nearly 650 miles [environ 1 000 kilomètres] near Turkey’s southern border, leaving relief workers totally overwhelmed in the region’s isolated towns.

On the Syrian side, in the northern areas held by the rebels, the volunteer rescuers lack fuel and the basic equipment essential to rescue the victims trapped under the rubble.

An unknown number of residents are still trapped and search operations are hampered by the current cold spell. Poor internet connection and damaged roads connecting some of Turkey’s hardest-hit cities, home to several million people, are also delaying the deployment of rescuers.

“More than an earthquake”

The delivery of relief supplies sent by Ankara to northwestern Syria had to be temporarily suspended on Tuesday morning due to various logistical problems, partly related to road conditions, a spokeswoman for the office told Reuters. United Nations Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “We don’t know exactly when he will be able to resume.”

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