Amid frigid temperatures, rescue efforts continue in the search for victims in Turkey and Syria following Monday’s catastrophic earthquakes.
By Nathan Morley
Thousands of survivors of Monday’s deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have spent a forth night in temporary shelters in freezing temperatures.Though the full extent of the disaster is continuing to unfold, rescue teams using thermal cameras and listening devices are still finding survivors buried in rubble.
It is bitterly cold across this region and people are sleeping under any shelter they can find – in cars, tents, mosques, schools and railway carriages. In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, temperatures dipped to −5°C on Thursday evening.
Under such conditions, aid agencies are warning of the danger faced by hundreds of thousands of people left homeless. Meanwhile, aftershocks continue to jolt the region after the 7.8 quake struck on Monday.
With so many survivors turned into refugees, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres promised help but warned the full extent of the crisis was still unfolding. “More help is on the way, but much more, much more is needed,” he said.
“People are facing nightmare on top of nightmare. The earthquake struck as the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria was already worsening, with needs at their highest level since the conflict began.”
Aid to Syria
The problems facing survivors are especially acute in war-ravaged Syria, where there also scenes of desolation and destruction.
In Aleppo, residents are in need of heating, food, medication and blankets. “The number of casualties continues to rise as we are speaking in both countries and there are still too many people who are under the rubble in the freezing cold,” says UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. “The earthquake struck as the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria was already worsening, with needs at their highest level since the conflict began.”
Meanwhile, though the government in Damascus is resisting pressure to open the rebel-controlled areas to international teams as it considers the delivery of aid to rebel districts from Turkey a violation of its sovereignty, the first UN convoy since the earthquake crossed the frontier on Thursday through the Bab al-Hawa with a cargo of tents, blankets, mattresses, and solar lamps.
For its part, Turkey announced it was working to open two other border crossings with Syria to allow the delivery of more aid.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad visited Aleppo on Friday in his first public appearance in the earthquake-stricken region. According to state media, Assad and his wife, Asma, visited patients at Aleppo University Hospital.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says 108 search and rescue teams, both from the UN and other international organisations are helping rescue efforts across the disaster zone.
Around 13.5 million people were affected by the earthquake over an area spanning 450 km.