Aid, rescues in quake-hit Turkey, Syria as death toll surpasses 17,000
(AP) — Syria’s Health Minister has urged the World Heath Organization to supply his country with urgently-needed medical supplies for treating the thousands of people injured by the earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey earlier this week. The minister made his comments on Thursday during a meeting with WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean who is in the Syrian capital of Damascus. State television quoted him as saying that WHO will give all the support to help Syria overcome the effects of Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Turkey and northern Syria.
Rescuers pulled more survivors from beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings Thursday, but hopes were starting to fade of finding many more people alive more than three days after a catastrophic earthquake and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 17,000.
The earthquake that razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria has become one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade.
The latest on the earthquake:
Syria’s Health Minister Hassan Ghabbash has urged the World Heath Organization to supply his country with urgently-needed medical supplies for treating the thousands of people injured by the earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey earlier this week.
Ghabbash made his comments on Thursday during a meeting with WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean Ahmed Al-Mandhari, who is in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
State television quoted Al-Mandhari as saying that WHO will give all the support to help Syria overcome the effects of Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 17,000 people, with many still trapped under the rubble.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces a tough election in May, has renewed a promise to quake survivors to rebuild destroyed homes within a year.
Visiting regions affected by the quake for a second day on Thursday, Erdogan said the new buildings would be no higher than three or four stories.
The government was working to install temporary container homes as well as caravans to shelter those left homeless, he said after a tour of the city of Gaziantep.
Erdogan said that a state emergency that he declared earlier this week in the 10 provinces affected by the quake would be approved in parliament later on Thursday. The government has said the emergency measure would help facilitate disaster management in those areas.
In Gaziantep, Erdogan said the measure would allow the government to fight looters, “loan sharks” and other groups that he said would aim to exploit the crisis.
U.N. aid shipments to northern Syria from Turkey resumed on Thursday morning following Monday’s earthquake.
Trucks crossed the Bab al-Hawa border point, the only crossing through which the U.N. is authorized to deliver aid from Turkey into northwest Syria.
The crossing had been closed to aid shipments because of road damage from the earthquake. The route in the past three days has been used to transport bodies of Syrians killed in the earthquake in Turkey.
Officials said six aid shipments that had been delayed by the earthquake were the first to cross on Thursday, to be followed by quake-response aid.
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said Thursday that the U.N. would be sending aid to northern Syria both by way of Turkey and across battle lines from government-held Damascus.
Millions of Syrians in the northwest live in poverty, mostly relying on aid to survive. The earthquake compounded the woes of the enclave, with many families displaced by the 12-year conflict struggling with dwindling aid programs.
The Czech Foreign Ministry on Thursday confirmed that a Czech citizen was killed in the earthquake in Turkey.
The ministry said the victim was a woman who had long-term residency in Turkey. No further details were given.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to travel Thursday to the quake-hit provinces of Gaziantep, Osmaniye and Kilis amid ongoing criticism that the government’s response has been too slow.
In addition to 12,873 people killed in Turkey, the country’s disaster management agency said more than 60,000 have been injured. On the Syrian side of the border, 3,162 have been reported dead and more than 5,000 injured.
Tens of thousands are thought to have lost their homes.
Experts said the survival window for those trapped under the rubble or otherwise unable to obtain basic necessities was closing rapidly. At the same time, they said, it is too soon to abandon hope.
Three prisoners were killed after rioting broke out at a prison in quake-hit Hatay province, officials and news reports said.
There were conflicting reports over the incident.
The Justice Ministry said Thursday some inmates started a fire in an attempt to escape, prompting an “intervention” by prison authorities.
At least 12 prisoners were injured during the attempt to suppress the riot and three of them died in the hospital, the ministry’s directorate for prisons said in a statement.
The independent Bianet news website reported that some prisoners set dormitories on fire, demanding to be transferred to a safe location, and sought information about family members affected by the devastation.
Bianet said the incident occurred on Tuesday — a day after the earthquake hit. All prisoners were transferred to other penitentiaries, it said.
North Korea says its foreign minister sent a message of condolences to her Turkish counterpart over the earthquake that killed thousands in that country and Syria.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday that Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui in her message to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed “deep sympathy and condolences” to victims and their families and wished for a swift recovery.
North Korea had sent a much higher profile message to Syria, issued by leader Kim Jong Un to Syrian President Bashar Assad. State media said Wednesday that Kim in the message said Syria under Assad’s leadership would “eradicate the aftermath of the earthquake damage as soon as possible.”
Turkey sent thousands of troops to South Korea to fight under U.S.-led U.N. forces as they repelled a North Korean invasion during the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea and Syria are the only nations other than Russia that recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, as they align with Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
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