In epicentre of Turkey quakes, survivors are indifferent to upcoming polls

PAZARCIK, Turkey – In the southern Turkish town of Pazarcik, the epicentre of the devastating February 6 earthquakes, people are focused on just trying to survive. Tens of thousands of residents left the town after the disaster and for the ones left behind without adequate shelter or facilities, holding a presidential election on May 14 seems incongruous.

They live in the dust, surrounded by the wreckage of buildings slated for demolition. The town of Pazarcik, the epicentre of the February 6 earthquakes in Turkey’s southern Kahramanmaras province, is a shadow of its former self. Only a few damaged buildings have been demolished and the rubble cleared away to make way for vacant lots.

“There’s no one left in the streets,” laments Mustafa Kayki, a local elected official of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a rightwing nationalist party. “Around 20,000 people have left Pazarcik since this terrible tragedy. Our voters are scattered. Pazarcik has been scattered. Our dear Pazarcik has turned into hell overnight, dark, a ruined city. It’s painful.” 


Mustafa Kayki, a local member of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), says 20,000 people have fled Pazarcik since the earthquakes. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24


The city was once home to 70,000 inhabitants, mainly Kurds and Alevis, a religious minority that professes a heterodox Islam, which counts, among its members, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition candidate in the 2023 presidential election.

At a street corner, two construction workers are busy renovating a shop on the ground floor of a building, which has a big pile of cement stacked at the entrance. There are no signs of political campaigning here and the workers appear indifferent about the upcoming polls. “There’s nothing to say. Just look around,” shrugs one worker.

The two workers, who prefer to remain anonymous, are not very affable. They reveal, rather bitterly, that this construction work is financed by the diaspora that left the country for Europe in the 1990s. “Life has resumed since the earthquake but we don’t know how long it will last. Those who had money have long since left,” explains a worker.


A camp for the homeless was set up at the entrance to Pazarcik after the February 6, 2023, quakes.
A camp for the homeless was set up at the entrance to Pazarcik after the February 6, 2023, quakes. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24


When people are asked about the May 14 election, their faces cloud over. Pazarcik’s remaining residents explain that they are “afraid to speak out and get arrested”. There’s a palpable fear of openly criticising the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power for 20 years, and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears particularly out of bounds.

“It’s not the right time to organise an election,” says Kayki. “People here are not thinking about elections, they are thinking about how they will survive. What am I going to eat? Where am I going to stay? These are their only concerns.” 

‘I don’t think I will vote’

It’s a view echoed by Adem Kutuk, a 49-year-old carpenter who has lived in Pazarcik for 24 years. “After everything we’ve just been through, I wish there was no election. What’s the point? Only those who live here, in these ruins, can understand. I don’t think I will vote,” he explains before making it clear that he does not want to “talk about politics”.


Carpenter Adem Kutuk says he's overworked rebuilding homes after the earthquakes.
Carpenter Adem Kutuk says he’s overworked rebuilding homes after the earthquakes. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24


In his small workshop, Kutuk is overwhelmed with work. “I wish there was no earthquake. I wouldn’t have so much work today. We have so much, too much work. Everywhere we go, we’re fixing kitchen cabinets, closets … Anything we can get back in shape.”


Adem Kutuk had five workshops before the earthquakes. This is the only one that survived the disaster.
Adem Kutuk had five workshops before the earthquakes. This is the only one that survived the disaster. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24


Shortly after the earthquakes struck, Kutuk and his colleagues went into battle mode, trying to help the victims. “We went to Iskenderun, in Hatay province, to buy particleboard to repair houses,” says the craftsman who now lives in a three-room hut that he built for his wife and two children after the quake.

‘The earthquake changed everything’

Funda Ozdilli has not been as lucky. The 36-year-old housewife lives in a tent – like an estimated 2.7 million people across Turkey rendered homeless by the earthquakes. Ozdilli lives here with her husband and 15-year-old daughter.

“I can’t tell you what we’re going through. Talking about it and living it are two different things,” she says quietly as she does the dishes under a tarp stretched in front of the entrance to her makeshift shelter. “I knocked on many doors to ask for help but they remained closed. I said we were homeless, that we needed a tent. I finally received this one.”

The Kurdish woman has not seen any of the 10,000 liras [465 euros] economic aid promised by Erdogan back on February 9, during a presidential trip to the southeastern city of Gaziantep. “Some people have got 10,000 or 15,000 liras,” she says, referring to a resettlement assistance. “I didn’t get anything. I don’t know why.”


Funda Ozdilli washes dishes in an area outside her tent in Pazarcik, Turkey.
Funda Ozdilli washes dishes in an area outside her tent in Pazarcik, Turkey. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24


Hands plunged in a basin of soapy water, she talks about the stifling heat, the lack of sanitary facilities, the absence of showers, the terror when a snake invited itself into the family tent. “I’m not asking for money. I just want a roof over my head. Is that too much to ask?”

Shelter, a place to call home, that’s all Ozdilli dreams about these days. “If I could find a house for 1,000 pounds [47 euros], I would do everything I could to pay for it.  But how can I pay 3,000 pounds rent every month? My husband is the only one working. We are not rich,” she explains.

Erdogan has promised to build more than 450,000 earthquake-resistant homes “within a year”. It’s an eternity for many who, like Ozdilli, live in precarious shelters. “I’m not going to vote for anyone. Who do you want me to vote for? I don’t think about it. I’m desperate. The earthquake has changed everything. People don’t know who to trust anymore,” she says with a blank look. “No one has the right to ask us for our vote. They have to find solutions for us first. Then we can talk about the vote.”

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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View from Aleppo: ‘Syrians are angry with the West’ over lack of earthquake aid

With international aid still struggling to reach Syria two weeks after the devastating February 6 earthquakes, calls are mounting for Western countries to lift diplomatic sanctions on the Syrian regime and facilitate the flow of aid. A local doctor helping the humanitarian efforts in Aleppo, in northwestern Syria, tells FRANCE 24 that people feel abandoned by the West. 

Two weeks after the successive earthquakes that killed more than 46,000 people in southern Turkey and neighbouring Syria, international humanitarian aid is struggling to reach stricken areas in Syria. After 12 years of war, the February 6 quakes have brought a country already in the grip of a humanitarian, economic and security crisis to its knees.  

Under international sanctions since 2011, Syria is still divided into areas under President Bashar al-Assad’s control and those held by rebel groups. Despite calls for an urgent increase in humanitarian aid, trucks are struggling to cross the Turkish border, including through UN-mandated border crossings.  

In Damascus, only planes bearing humanitarian aid from Arab countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon land regularly. Western aid remains mostly absent as the US, France and a number of European countries refuse to provide direct assistance to the Syrian government after years of broken diplomatic relations.  

Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Aleppo, Doctor Nabil Antaki, a gastroenterologist who helps lead the volunteer efforts of Catholic humanitarian group Les Maristes Bleus (the Blue Marists), describes the lack of aid from Western countries as “scandalous”, and calls for international sanctions to be lifted on a country that has been bled dry.  

FRANCE 24: What is the situation in Aleppo?

Dr Nabil Antaki: The Turkish cities of Maras [officially Kahramanmaras], Antakya and Gaziantep were much more severely affected than Aleppo. In Aleppo, a total of 60 buildings have been destroyed, 200 have to be demolished because they are no longer inhabitable, and thousands of damaged buildings need to be restored. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless.  

On the night of the earthquake, at 4:17am, everyone rushed to the streets in their pyjamas, in spite of the rain and freezing cold. Everyone was very scared. People took refuge in churches, mosques, convents and schools. At the Blue Marists, we opened our doors half an hour after the earthquake hit. Within a few hours, 1,000 people had sought refuge inside our walls. Then, little by little, people started returning to their homes when they saw that their houses had not been too badly damaged.  

But on Monday evening, the new earthquake was felt very strongly and everyone went out into the street. A thousand people are staying with the Blue Marists once again. We don’t have enough space. Everyone is very afraid.

Two weeks after the earthquakes, what do the people of Aleppo need?  

There are only 80 seriously injured people left in Aleppo. From a medical point of view, we have enough basic supplies. The Syrian pharmaceutical industry is quite efficient despite the war, as 90 percent of products are still in circulation. However, we are lacking modern equipment, which we cannot import because of the sanctions. That being said, medical equipment is officially exempt [from the sanctions].  

We need fuel. Our fuel resources are being rationed. We are only allowed 20 litres every 25 days. In December, the government had to close schools, universities and administrative offices for a week because there were no means of transport. We have no heating oil. Electricity is being rationed, we only have two hours of it per day. We are terribly cold this winter.

Many are calling for international aid to be released. What is actually happening on the ground?

The issue of international aid is truly scandalous. We have received aid from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, but Western countries have not sent anything, claiming that they cannot help a country governed by Assad. It is as if the Syrians here are not suffering just as much as the people on the rebel side or in Turkey. Politics must be separated from humanitarian issues, which Western governments have refused to do. It is scandalous.  

The French foreign ministry has supposedly released 12 million euros, half of which was meant to be channelled through international organisations and the other half through NGOs working on the ground. We have seen nothing for the moment. The United States has said that it has eased sanctions to allow humanitarian aid for six months. But in principle, humanitarian aid and medical equipment are exempt from sanctions. It’s hypocritical. Why ease them if they are exempt?

How do Syrians feel?

Syrians are angry with the West. On the other hand, Syrians have been extremely generous with one another, especially throughout the diaspora. At the Blue Marists shelter, we have received mattresses, food and blankets sent by Syrian NGOs from Damascus and Homs. We received many calls from Syrians abroad who wanted to send funds and equipment. This unmatched solidarity strongly contrasts with the lack of humanity and generosity demonstrated by the West.  

What are living conditions like for Syrians after 12 years of war?  

The whole country has to be rebuilt. It had already been destroyed by the war, but the economy, which was already stagnating, has been at a standstill ever since the earthquakes hit. Inflation is terrible: the euro, which was at 60 Syrian pounds, rose to 7,000 Syrian pounds at the height of the conflict [it stood at over 2,600 on February 20]. According to UN figures, 90 percent of people live below the poverty line and 60 percent are food insecure; people cannot make ends meet. 

Since the war, 80 percent of people are only able to survive thanks to the generosity of NGOs which, like us, provide monthly food baskets, medical aid and schooling. Barely 5 percent of the population can pay for their own food and housing. The country has become impoverished. We need the sanctions to be lifted so that foreign investments can be made to enable reconstruction. All financial transactions are forbidden.

What state of mind are Syrians in today?  

Syrians are suffering, they are at the end of their tether. Twelve years of war, then the Covid and cholera pandemics, and now the earthquakes… People can’t take it anymore. People want to leave the country, which has already been abandoned by its elite. They tell us that they lived better during the war than they do now. It is time to stop this suffering by lifting the sanctions to allow investment.  

Sanctions serve absolutely no purpose. Even though they were imposed on Cuba for 60 years, the regime didn’t change. They were put in place in North Korea, but the regime there didn’t change either. They are ineffective and result in the people suffering. These countries’ leaders are not affected, as it is the people who pay the price for these sanctions. They don’t encourage peace negotiations, respect for human rights, nor help in the fight against corruption. It is time for more humane and realistic policies. 

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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Live: Death toll in quake hit Turkey and Syria nears 40,000, as UN launches appeal for Syrians

As the death toll from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria approached 40,000 on Wednesday, the UN launched an appeal for $397 million to provide “life-saving relief” for nearly five million Syrians affected by the latest disaster. Follow FRANCE 24’s live coverage of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. All times are Paris time (GMT + 1)

8:50pm: UK makes it easier for aid agencies in Syria to avoid breaching sanctions

Britain is issuing two new licences to make it easier for aid agencies helping earthquake relief efforts to operate in Syria without breaching sanctions aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Relief efforts in Syria have been hampered by the legacy of a civil war that has splintered the country and divided regional and global powers.

The British government said the temporary new licences would “strengthen the timely and effective delivery of relief efforts by removing the need for individual licence applications”.

“UK sanctions do not target humanitarian aid, food, or medical supplies, but we recognise that the current requirements for individual licencing are not always practical during a crisis response,” Minister of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said in a statement.

The licences provide broad protection to organisations to allow them to operate by authorising activities which would have otherwise been prohibited.

6:55pm: Northwest Syria now area of ‘greatest concern’, says WHO

The World Health Organization says it is particularly concerned about the welfare of people in northwestern Syria, a rebel-held region with little access to aid.

“It’s clear that the zone of greatest concern at the moment is the area of northwestern Syria,” WHO’s emergencies director, Mike Ryan, told a briefing in Geneva.

“The impact of the earthquake in areas of Syria controlled by the government is significant, but the services are there and there is access to those people. We have to remember here that in Syria, we’ve had ten years of war. The health system is amazingly fragile. People have been through hell.”

Efforts to distribute aid have been hampered by a civil war that has splintered the country for more than a decade. Civil war enmities have obstructed at least two attempts to send aid across frontlines into Syria’s northwest, but an aid convoy reached the area overnight.

5:50pm: Destruction ‘is everywhere’ in Turkey’s quake-stricken Nurdagi

In Nurdagi, a southeastern Turkish town near the epicentre of the January 6 earthquakes, practically all buildings have been flattened or severly damaged, with plans now in place to completely demolish those still standing and rebuild the town anew.

Meanwhile, those left homeless by the disaster are still waiting for aid and a place to live.

FRANCE 24’s special correspondent Thameen Al Kheetan has more.


4:15pm: Two women pulled from the rubble in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras

Two more women have been pulled from the rubble in Turkey’s southern city of Kahramanmaras, even as hopes of finding survivors dwindle.

Rescuers could be seen applauding and embracing each other in a video posted to social media as an ambulance carried away a 74-year-old woman rescued after more than nine days trapped in rubble.

Earlier in the day, a 46-year-old woman was rescued in the same city, close to the epicentre of the quake.


2:35pm: Turkey says earthquake diplomacy could help mend Armenia ties

Humanitarian aid sent by Armenia for victims of last week’s devastating earthquake in Turkey could boost the neighbouring countries’ efforts to normalise their relations, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.

A border gate between the long-feuding neighbours was opened for the first time in 35 years to allow aid for quake victims in southern Turkey. Armenia also sent a rescue team to Turkey to help in the search for survivors.

“Armenia has extended its hand of friendship, showed solidarity and cooperation with us in this difficult time … We need to continue this solidarity,” Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference in Ankara with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan.

“The normalisation process in the southern Caucasus region is going on. We believe that our cooperation in the humanitarian field will support this process,” Cavusoglu added.

Mirzoyan said through a translator that Armenia remained committed to “the full normalisation of relations and complete opening of the border with Turkey”.

11:56am: Turkey arrests 78 for ‘sharing provocative posts’ on social media over earthquake

Turkish police said they have arrested 78 people accused of creating fear and panic by “sharing provocative posts” about last week’s earthquake on social media, adding 20 of them were being held in pre-trial detention.

Turkey‘s General Directorate of Security said it had identified 613 people accused of making provocative posts, and legal proceedings had been initiated against 293. Of this group, the chief prosecutor had ordered the arrest of 78.

The directorate added that 46 websites were shut down for running “phishing scams” trying to steal donations for quake victims and 15 social media accounts posing as official institutions were closed.

Last October, Turkey’s parliament adopted a law under which journalists and social media users could be jailed for up to three years for spreading “disinformation”, raising concerns among rights groups and European countries about free speech, particularly ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections due this summer.

11:57am: Armenian foreign minister visits Turkey, Ankara hails quake diplomacy

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan arrived in Ankara Wednesday for rare talks with his Turkish counterpart as the two countries seek to normalise relations after decades of animosity.

At loggerheads since Armenia gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the neighbouring nations have never established formal diplomatic relations.

At a press conference in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said humanitarian aid sent by Armenia for earthquake victims could help boost ties between the two countries.

A border gate was opened for the first time in 35 years to allow aid for quake victims in southern Turkey. Armenia also sent a rescue team to Turkey to help in the search for survivors.

“Armenia has extended its hand of friendship, showed solidarity and cooperation with us in this difficult time…We need to continue this solidarity,” said Cavusoglu.

10:40am: Woman rescued from ruins in Turkey 222 hours after quakes

A 42-year-old woman was rescued from the rubble of a building in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras on Wednesday, almost 222 hours after devastating earthquakes struck the region, Turkish media reported.

TV footage sowed rescue workers carrying the woman, named Melike Imamoglu, strapped onto a stretcher, to an ambulance.

4:45am: Combined death toll nears 40,000

The confirmed death toll from the quake stands at 39,106 as officials and medics said 35,418 people had died in Turkey and at least 3,688 in Syria. Following the disaster, residents faced the harsh realities of surviving in cities turned to ruin in the middle of the winter freeze.

1:30am: New aid convoy route to rebel-held Syria opens with UN

An aid convoy  passed through a newly re-opened border crossing into rebel-held northwestern Syria, where help has been slow to arrive since last week’s earthquake.

A convoy of 11 UN trucks entered Syria through the newly-opened Bab al-Salam border point, after Damascus agreed to let the world body use the crossing for aid.

The UN has so far sent more than 50 trucks of aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

Following international pressure, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allowed the use of two more crossings, Bab Al-Salam and al-Raee, for an initial period of three months.

Activists and local emergency teams have decried the UN’s slow response to the quake in rebel-held areas, contrasting it with the planeloads of humanitarian aid delivered to government-controlled airports.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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Live: Syria could open more border crossings for quake aid, WHO says

Issued on: Modified:

The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria has now reached approximately 33,000 reports stated Sunday, with the UN warning that the final number could rise by “double or more”. Also on Sunday, a new UN convoy arrived in Syria to deliver deperately needed international aid. Follow FRANCE 24 for live updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

6:28pm: Syria may consider to open more border crossings for quake aid, WHO says

The World Health Organization chief said Sunday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had voiced openness to more border crossings for aid to be brought to quake victims in rebel-held northwestern Syria. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters he had met with the Syrian president in Damascus on Sunday afternoon to discuss the response to the devastating earthquake.

“This afternoon I met with His Excellency President Assad, who indicated he was open to considering additional cross-border access points for this emergency,” Tedros told a virtual press conference from the Syrian capital.

Rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria, which has been ravaged by more than a decade of civil war, are in a particularly dire situation. They cannot receive aid from government-held parts of Syria without Damascus’s authorisation, and the single border crossing open to shuttle aid from Turkey saw operations damaged in the quake.

Aid began trickling through the border crossing again on Thursday, but there have been mounting calls to open more crossings to speed up the aid delivery.

While Damascus had given the all-clear for cross-line aid convoys to go ahead from government-held areas, Tedros said the WHO was still waiting for the green light from the rebel-held areas before going in.

3:11pm: Death toll rises above 30,000 in Turkey, Syria earthquake

The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria reached 33,000 on Sunday, with the United Nations warning that the final number may double.

Officials and medics said 29,605 people had died in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, bringing the current total to 33,179

2:28pm: UN warns of aid failure for Syria

The UN denounced Sunday a failure to get desperately needed aid to war-torn regions of Syria. A UN convoy with supplies for northwest Syria arrived via Turkey, but the agency’s relief chief Martin Griffiths said much more was needed for the millions whose homes were destroyed.

“We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived,” Griffiths said on Twitter. “My duty and our obligation is to correct this failure as fast as we can.”

Aid has been slow to arrive in Syria, where years of conflict have ravaged the healthcare system, and parts of the country remain under the control of rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is under Western sanctions.

The UN convoy of ten trucks crossed into northwest Syria via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to an AFP correspondent, carrying shelter kits including plastic sheeting, ropes and screws and nails, as well as blankets and mattresses.

1:22pm: A new UN convoy arrives in Syria

A UN convoy of ten trucks crossed the border with Turkey at the Bab-al Hawa crossing point in northwestern Syria. The trucks carried materials for emergency shelters like plastic sheeting, blankets, mattresses, ropes and even nails and screws.

12:15pm: Syria quake aid held up by Islamist group ‘approval issues’, says UN

Earthquake aid from government-held parts of Syria into territory controlled by hardline opposition groups has been held up by approval issues with the hardline Islamists group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a United Nations spokesperson told Reuters on Sunday.

The Syrian government last week said it was willing to send aid into the northern zone, which is largely held by the HTS and was devastated by Monday’s earthquake.

8:49am: Greek foreign minister visits Turkey’s quake-hit region

Greece‘s foreign minister arrived in Turkey on Sunday in a show of support after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake seven days ago, the ministry said, despite a longstanding rivalry between the two NATO countries.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was met with a warm embrace by his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, according to footage on state-run ERT TV, before they boarded helicopters to visit quake-hit regions.

His arrival marks the first visit by a European minister to Turkey since the earthquake.

The two ministers are in Antakya, where Greek rescuers are helping with search and rescue operations.


7:18am: EU says ‘absolutely unfair’ to be accused of not providing aid to Syria

The European Union’s envoy to Syria said early on Sunday that it was not fair to accuse the bloc of failing to provide enough help to Syrians following the devastating earthquake that hit swathes of Syria and Turkey last week.

“It is absolutely unfair to be accused of not providing aid, when actually we have constantly been doing exactly that for over a decade and we are doing so much more even during the earthquake crisis,” the head of the EU delegation Dan Stoenescu told Reuters in written comments.


7:07am: Turkey-Syria quake death toll surpasses 28,000, UN expects toll to double

UN relief chief Martin Griffiths said he expected the death toll to at least double after he arrived in southern Turkey on Saturday to assess the quake’s damage.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers are scouring flattened neighbourhoods despite freezing weather that has deepened the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.

Security concerns led some aid operations to be suspended, and dozens of people have been arrested for looting or trying to defraud victims in the aftermath of the quake in Turkey, according to state media.


(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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Survivors still being rescued five days after Turkey-Syria quake as toll tops 28,000

Rescue crews on Saturday pulled more survivors, including entire families, from toppled buildings despite diminishing hopes as the death toll of the enormous quake that struck a border region of Turkey and Syria five days ago surpassed 28,000. Rescuers also pulled a two-month-old baby and an elderly woman from the rubble on Saturday. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1). 

This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, click here.

10:27pm: Death toll tops 28,000 as some aid operations are suspended due to security reasons

Officials and medics said 24,617 people had died in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria. The confirmed total now stands at 28,191.

Although many rescues happened on Saturday, security concerns led some aid operations to be suspended, and 48 people have been arrested for looting or trying to defraud victims in the aftermath of the quake in Turkey, state media reported.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers are still scouring through flattened neighbourhoods despite freezing weather that has deepened the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.

8:38pm: Turkey arrests 48 for looting, defrauding quake victims, state media says

Turkish authorities have arrested 48 people for looting or trying to defraud victims after a powerful earthquake hit Turkey, state media reported on Saturday.

The suspects were held in eight different provinces as part of investigations into looting after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the region, news agency Anadolu said.

It later reported that 42 suspects were held for looting in southern Hatay province, while six were arrested over defrauding a victim in Gaziantep by telephone.

7:03pm: Survivors still being rescued five days after quake, including entire families and children

Rescue crews on Saturday pulled more survivors, including entire families, from toppled buildings despite diminishing hopes as the death toll of the enormous quake that struck a border region of Turkey and Syria five days ago surpassed 25,000. Rescuers also pulled a two-month-old baby and an elderly woman from the rubble on Saturday.

Dramatic rescues were being broadcast on Turkish television, including the rescue of the Narli family in central Kahramanmaras 133 hours after the quake struck early Monday. First, 12-year-old Nehir Naz Narli was saved, then both of her parents.

That followed the rescue earlier in the day of a family of five from a mound of debris in the hard-hit town of Nurdagi, in Gaziantep province, TV network HaberTurk reported. Rescuers cheered and chanted, “God is Great!” as the last family member, the father, was lifted to safety.

In the city of Antakya, a two-month-old baby was found alive 128 hours after the quake, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Tens of thousands of local and international rescue workers are still scouring through flattened neighbourhoods despite freezing weather that has compounded the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.

3:52pm: Death toll rises above 25,000 in both countries

The death toll from a catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria climbed to more than 25,000 on Saturday, as rescuers worked in freezing weather to find people alive.

Officials and medics said 21,848 people had died in Turkey and 3,553 in Syria from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor, bringing the confirmed total to 25,401.

3pm: Turkey detains 12 over collapsed buildings after quake, media reports

Turkish police have detained 12 people over collapsed buildings in the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, local media reported on Saturday, following the huge quake that hit Turkey.

Those taken into custody included contractors, DHA news agency said. At least 6,000 buildings collapsed after a 7.8-magnitude tremor hit the region, killing more than 25,000 people, sparking anger over the poor quality of housing.

There are expected to be more detentions after the public prosecutor in Diyarbakir, one of 10 southeastern provinces affected by the quake, issued arrest warrants for 29 people on Saturday, state news agency reported.

One of those detained Saturday was a contractor for a building in Gaziantep, the agency said, adding he was found by police in Istanbul.

1:27pm: Armenia-Turkey crossing opened for first time in 35 years after quake

A border crossing between Armenia and Turkey opened for the first time in 35 years on Saturday, to allow humanitarian aid through after a massive earthquake hit the region, an official said.

Five trucks with aid including food and water arrived in Turkey from the Alican border crossing, Serdar Kilic, Turkey’s special envoy for dialogue with Armenia, said on Twitter. State news agency Anadolu said this was the first time it had opened since 1988.

12:23am: Turkey to act against those involved in looting, says Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday the government would take action against those involved in looting and other crimes in the region affected by this week’s devastating earthquakes.

Speaking during a visit to the quake zone, Erdogan said hundreds of thousands of buildings were uninhabitable across southern Turkey and that authorities would take steps to start rebuilding damaged cities within weeks.

The death toll in Turkey has risen to 21,043, he said.

12:10am: UN aid chief says earthquake is region’s ‘worst event in 100 years’

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths described on Saturday the devastating earthquake that hit southern Turkey and northwestern Syria as the “worst event in 100 years in this region”.

Speaking during a news briefing in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, Griffiths also lauded Turkey’s response to the disaster as “extraordinary”.

He also told Reuters he hoped in Syria aid would go to both government and opposition-held areas, but that things with this regard were “not clear yet”.

11:44am: Turkish company to send ships to house 3,000 in earthquake zone

Turkey’s Karadeniz Holding said on Saturday it would send two humanitarian aid ships that can each house 1,500 people to help the relief effort in the southern province of Hatay, hit by a major earthquake that has claimed more than 20,000 lives.

“The company is working with the authorities to send lifeships Suheyla Sultan and Rauf Bey to Iskenderun-Hatay,” the company said, adding this would be its first humanitarian mission.

The so-called lifeships, built for humanitarian aid missions, have accommodation, fridges, TVs and heating, as well as facilities for education, healthcare and food, the company said.

11:44am: Austrian army suspends Turkey quake rescue

The Austrian army on Saturday suspended rescue operations in quake-ravaged Turkey due to a worsening “security situation”, a spokesman said.

“There have been clashes between groups,” he told AFP without giving details. 

The spokesman said the 82 soldiers from the Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit were sheltering in the southern Hatay province “in a base camp with other international organisations, awaiting instructions”.

They had arrived in Hatay on Tuesday with 45 tonnes of equipment and were able to rescue nine people from rubble.

9:30am: ‘Anger is brewing amid the grief’

“Authorities aren’t letting people return home even if their damaged residences are still standing,” reports Shona Bhattacharya from Osmaniye, Turkey. She adds that last Friday, the minister of urban planning announced 4,000 experts would be examining buildings to determine if they were safe to return to or not. 


Turkish rescue workers carry Ergin Guzeloglan, 36, to an ambulance after pulled him out from a collapsed building five days after an earthquake in Hatay, southern Turkey, early Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. © Can Ozer, AP


9:09am: Earthquake compounds Turkish leader’s woes as election nears

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power 20 years ago riding a wave of public outrage toward the previous government’s handling of a deadly earthquake. 

Now, three months away from an election, Erdogan’s political future could hinge on how the public perceives his government’s response to a similarly devastating natural disaster. 

“It is going to be a big challenge for Erdogan, who has established a brand for himself as an autocratic figure but an efficient one that gets the job done,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute and the author of several books on Erdogan. 

The aftermath of a massive earthquake isn’t the only parallel to the election of 2002. Back then, Turkey was in the midst of a financial crisis that was punishing its economy.

7:22am: Aid trickles in as Turkey-Syria quake toll passes 24,000

A winter freeze in the affected areas has hurt rescue efforts and compounded the suffering of millions of people, many in desperate need of aid.

At least 870,000 people urgently needed food in the two countries after the quake, which has left up to 5.3 million people homeless in Syria alone, the UN warned.

Aftershocks following Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor have added to the death toll and further upended the lives of survivors.

A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to earthquake victims, sent by a Kurdish charity organisation, enters Syria through the opposition-held Bab al-Salama crossing with Turkey in the northern Aleppo province on February 10, 2023.
A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to earthquake victims, sent by a Kurdish charity organisation, enters Syria through the opposition-held Bab al-Salama crossing with Turkey in the northern Aleppo province on February 10, 2023. © AFP

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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