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Many earthquake victims still waiting for help one week on

13 February 2023

Death toll estimated to have reached more than 33,000 people


Syrians in Idlib dig graves on Monday for relatives who died as a result of the earthquake

Syrians in Idlib dig graves on Monday for relatives who died as a result of the earthquake

AS THE stories of miraculous survival become ever rarer, and the death toll rises from the earthquake which struck Turkey and parts of Syria a week ago (News, 10 February), some areas have still not received any international help.

On Monday morning — a week after the initial earthquake — the number of people who have lost their lives was estimated to have reached more than 33,000.

In parts of Syria, particularly those rebel-held areas run by an Islamist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), no heavy machinery has arrived to help rescuers, who have given up searching the rubble. Frontlines into the area are sealed off, although the Syrian government indicated yesterday that it was willing to send in aid. The UN and the United States classify HTS as a terrorist organisation.

A BBC reporter who reached the area described children trying to lift rubble with their bare hands. One man told him: “We’ve received nothing but God’s mercy.”

An appeal launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee for aid to the disaster area had raised more than £60 million by lunchtime on Monday. More than 33,000 people are known to have died, but numbers are still rising. The number of injured is unknown, although Turkey has said that 80,000 people are in hospital.

The UN has said that at least 870,000 people urgently need food in Turkey and Syria; and in Syria alone up to 5.3 million people are believed to have been made homeless. Turkey reports that more than one million are in temporary shelters.

The Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse has set up a 52-bed mobile hospital in Turkey, in the grounds of the destroyed Hatay State hospital. The facility offers two emergency operating rooms and a pharmacy, and the first patients arrived today.

More than 100 arrest warrants have been issued in Turkey in connection with the construction of buildings which collapsed in the earthquake. Some building contractors have already been arrested as anger mounts at the collapse of thousands of buildings, with many people blaming corruption and shoddy building practices for the scale of the devastation.

Opposition leaders have accused the government run by the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of not enforcing building regulations and of failing to account for the proceeds of a levy imposed after the 1999 Izmit earthquake to ensure buildings were more resistant to earthquakes.

The Christian charity Mary’s Meals has launched its own appeal to deliver food to children in Syria. It has been working in Aleppo since 2017, serving a meal a day to schoolchildren, and is now handing out emergency food aid to children.

The Church of Ireland has also called for donations, and Church of Ireland bishops have released €10,000 from its reserves to Christian Aid to support its relief work in the region.

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