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Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll soars over 7,000 as frantic rescue efforts continue

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A painstaking effort to reach victims of a monster earthquake and several strong aftershocks continued Tuesday across a huge swath of southern Turkey and northern Syria. The death toll from the devastating earthquakes that struck early Monday morning soared to over 7,000 a day later as crews raced to try to find survivors in the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings. 

Aftershocks, including a magnitude 5.7 temblor that hit Tuesday, made the search for survivors even more dangerous.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that he was declaring a state of emergency for three months across 10 provinces in the earthquake zone. The country's vice president, Fuat Oktay, told reporters that 8,000 people had been pulled from under rubble. He said there were 20,000 people taking part in the rescue efforts.

Tens of thousands of people were injured in the two nations and an untold number left homeless in harsh winter conditions.

Drone shows quake devastation in Turkey 00:50

Nations from around the world began pouring aid material and rescue teams into the region. Oktay said rescue teams from 14 countries were already in Turkey and teams from 70 more nations were expected as the day progressed.


Desperate survivors plead for help as rescue teams arrive, but not fast enough

Search teams and relief supplies started pouring in Tuesday from dozens of nations, including the United States, but people in some of the areas of Turkey and Syria hit hardest by Monday's devastating earthquakes said they felt they had been left to fend for themselves.

"I can't get my brother back from the ruins. I can't get my nephew back. Look around here. There is no state official here, for God's sake," said Ali Sagiroglu in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras. "For two days we haven't seen the state around here... Children are freezing from the cold."

Turkey Syria Earthquake
People warm themselves next to a collapsed building in Malatya, Turkey, February 7, 2023, a day after powerful earthquakes hit the region. Emrah Gurel/AP

A winter storm was compounding the misery by rendering many roads — some of them damaged by the quake — almost impassable. The cold rain and snow were a risk both for people forced from their homes, who took refuge in mosques, schools or even bus shelters, and survivors buried under debris.

"My whole family is under there — my sons, my daughter, my son-in-law... There's no one else to get them out," said Ali Battal, in his 60s, his face streaked with blood and head swathed in a wool shawl against the bitter cold. "I hear their voices. I know they're alive but there's no one to rescue them." 

"It is now a race against time," said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We have activated the WHO network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care for the injured and most vulnerable," he added.


Officials say death toll now over 7,200 across entire quake zone

The death toll from the massive earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria soared above 7,200 on Tuesday, and was still expected to rise as rescuers continued digging into buildings flattened by the temblors.
Turkey's emergency management agency said the total number of deaths in the country had passed 5,400, with some 31,000 people injured.
In Syria, the quake-affected area is divided between government-held territory and the country's last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by government forces and borders Turkey.

Rescue workers pull out a survivor from the rubble of a destroyed building in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, a day after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country, February 7, 2023. ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty

The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed over 800, with some 1,500 injured, according to the Health Ministry. At least 1,000 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to the White Helmets, the emergency organization leading rescue operations, with more than 2,400 injured.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country's 85 million people were affected, and he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces.
For the entire quake-hit area, that number could be as high as 23 million people, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergencies officer with the World Health Organization.



U.S. sends two teams with more than 160 rescuers to help find quake survivors in Turkey

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said Tuesday that two teams of urban search and rescue experts, one from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the other from Fairfax, Virginia, were "wheels up" on their way to join rescue efforts in Turkey.

Turkish leaders appealed soon after Monday's devastating earthquakes for search and rescue teams from around the world to help, and USAID said a total of 161 personnel from the two U.S. agencies were on their way to Turkey, along with "12 canines & 170K+ lbs of specialized equipment."

USAID said the rescuers would join a USAID team already working on the ground in the quake zone. 

By Tucker Reals

Salvation for some, but frustration for others as rescuer teams struggle to reach quake victims

Crowds gathered at wreckage sites throughout Turkey, vapor showing the cold air as people breathed in and out in anticipation of reaching more survivors. Even those who had emerged or escaped collapse in Monday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake and its aftershocks now had to sleep in cars, outside or in government shelters. 

Zeliha Hisir tried to speak, but could barely move after her hourslong rescue Tuesday near the epicenter of the powerful earthquake. The 58-year-old woman's eyes darted around in shock and relief as a rescue crew covered her in a bright pink and green fuzzy blanket. Dressed only in shorts and a T-shirt, she had survived through freezing temperatures in Kahramanmaras.

APTOPIX Turkey Earthquake
A woman sits on the rubble as emergency rescue teams search for people under the remains of destroyed buildings in Nurdagi town on the outskirts of Osmaniye city southern Turkey, February 7, 2023. Khalil Hamra/AP

Her son, Mufit Hisir, told The Associated Press that firefighters who flew in from Antalya had rescued his relatives. 

"Two hours ago my sibling was rescued after a six-hour effort. And my mother's rescue took two hours. They're both well," he said.
In the town of Nurdagi, however, residents who lost loved ones said relatives could have been saved if rescue teams had arrived earlier.

"My sister has four children. She has one sister-in-law, in-laws and nephews and nieces. They're all gone. They're all gone," Nilufer Sarigoz said, putting her face in her hands and sobbing.


By The Associated Press

How you can help victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes

Foreign nations and non-governmental organizations have promised assistance and started mobilizing supplies and rescue teams to help authorities in Turkey and Syria cope with the thousands of people injured and displaced by the massive earthquakes that struck on Monday. 

The United Nations' refugee and children's agencies and its World Food Program were among the agencies rushing to respond to the disaster.  

Click here for the full story, with links to several reputable aid agencies that are helping earthquake survivors in both Turkey and Syria. 

By Tucker Reals

Turkish military forces put out massive shipping container fire that closed key port

Turkey's Defense Ministry said Tuesday that forces had managed to extinguish a fire that blazed for hours at a cargo terminal at the Port of Iskenderun. The ministry said the fire was successfully extinguished by both helicopters and aircraft belonging to its land and air forces on Tuesday evening. 

The ministry posted a tweet showing aerial video of the affected area and some of the effort to douse the flames.

It remained unclear when the key commercial port on the Mediterranean might reopen to cargo traffic 

By Melania Hidalgo

Catholic churches opened across northern Syria

The official responsible for properties belonging to the Roman Catholic Church across the Middle East said he would open all churches in northern Syria to people needing shelter after Monday's devastating earthquakes.

The office of Rev. Francesco Patton said the properties would be able to shelter hundreds of people and provide medical care and food to thousands, The Associated Press reported.

By Haley Ott

Turkey-Syria earthquakes tore through region with "largest refugee population in the world"

The devastating earthquakes along the Turkish-Syrian border struck an area that was already home to millions of refugees battling desperate circumstances. The United Nations said it was trying to reach refugees affected by the first quake, which registered a whopping magnitude 7.8, though it stressed that its existing aid programs were woefully underfunded.

"We do not know the exact number of refugees impacted and we might not for some days, but we fear the number might be significant, given the epicenter of the quake was close to areas with high concentrations of refugees," said Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled their country's civil war, almost half of them children. In the 10 Turkish provinces affected by the quake, more than 1.7 million of the 15 million inhabitants are Syrian refugees.

APTOPIX Syria Turkey Earthquake
People react as they sit on the wreckage of buildings collapsed by an earthquake in Aleppo, Syria, February 7, 2023. Omar Sanadiki/AP

Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR's representative in Turkey, said that in Kilis province, one in two people are Syrian refugees, while in Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Hatay, the figure is one in four or five.

"These 10 regions are also hosting the largest refugee population in the world," he said Tuesday.

Meanwhile within Syria, more than 6.8 million people were internally displaced before the quake, and nearly 60,000 Palestinian refugees were in quake-affected northern Syria. 


Dozens of first responders from L.A. Fire Department to join earthquake relief efforts in Turkey

 The Los Angeles County Fire Department is among the local U.S. agencies sending a task force to Turkey to help with recovery efforts after the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake and powerful aftershocks on Monday, CBS Los Angeles reports

The agency said it was mobilizing California Task Force 2 in response to a request by Turkish leaders for help from abroad. The task force will provide immediate relief efforts, firefighters said. 

The team will include 81 people, six canine teams and three structural engineers, according to the department.

LA County Firefighters head to Turkey to help in rescue efforts 03:16

Major cargo port in Turkey closed as earthquake sparks huge shipping container fire

A navy ship docked Tuesday at the southern Turkish port of Iskenderun to transport quake survivors in need of urgent medical care to another city nearby, The Associated Press reported, as thick black smoke rose from another part of the busy port. 

Maritime intelligence news website Lloyd's List said international logistics giant AP Moller Maersk had rerouted all of its vessels slated to sail into Iskenderun as firefighters were still battling a huge blaze Tuesday at one of the port's cargo terminals. The fire erupted when one of Monday's major earthquakes toppled stacked shipping containers at the terminal.

Maersk said some of its logistics and transport infrastructure in the region, including at the Iskernderun port, had sustained "severe structural damage," forcing "a complete stop of all operations until further notice" at the Mediterranean Sea port.

Fire in the containers overturned in the earthquake in Iskenderun Port continues
An aerial view of a fire among shipping containers that was sparked by an earthquake in the Iskenderun Port, in Turkey's southern Hatay province, February 7, 2023. Anadolu Agency/Getty

"We will need to perform a change of destination for all bookings bound for the port or already on the water. We are currently planning to divert containers to nearby hubs within operational feasibility or hold at transhipment ports - including Port of Mersin [Turkey] and Port Said [Egypt]," Maersk said, according to the Reuters news agency.

"It's not yet known how long recovery efforts will take and when the port can undergo a full inspection of the damage," the shipper said.

By Tucker Reals

U.N. mobilizes aid for earthquake victims

The United Nations began mobilizing resources shortly after the earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had a total stock of some 2,000 tents and approximately 1,700 Non-Food Item kits pre-positioned inside northwest Syria. UNHCR said 1,000 additional tents were available in a warehouse in Gaziantep, southern Turkey. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) also released trauma kits from its warehouses to at least 16 hospitals in northwest Syria. The head of the World Food Program, David Beasley, tweeted that "emergency teams are on the ground."

"The earthquake has heavily impacted northwest Syria, where 4.1 million people, most of them women and children, were already relying on humanitarian assistance," Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General told reporters, adding that "hospitals are already overwhelmed."

The U.N. has more than 700 staff based in the earthquake-affected areas.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh told reporters on Monday that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had "assured us that the U.N. will do all that's possible in helping Syria in this very difficult situation."

"Turkey and Syria need all the help they can get," said Mark Lowcock, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development and former U.N. relief chief. "The most vulnerable may be those in Syria in places not controlled by the government: help via Turkey may be needed for them, and diplomatic efforts are necessary to achieve that."  

By Pamela Falk

"The needs are highest" in Syria, WHO says

Senior officials from the World Health Organization said that Turkey had strong capacity to respond to the devastation of Monday's earthquakes, which have killed, injured, and displaced thousands of people, but that the needs in Syria were more extreme.

"All over Syria, the needs are highest after nearly 12 years of protracted, complex crisis, while humanitarian funding continues to decline," Adelheid Marschang, WHO Senior Emergency Officer, said.

By Haley Ott

Newborn saved after mother gives birth and dies trapped under earthquake rubble

A newborn baby is shown after having been saved from earthquake damage in Syria in this undated photo from local activists. Local activists

A pregnant woman who was trapped under the rubble of a building in Aleppo, Syria after it collapsed in Monday's earthquake gave birth to her baby before passing away, local activists said. Her child survived and was saved by rescue-workers, the activists said.

Read the full story here.

By Haley Ott

Hundreds gather in Istanbul airport to try to help quake victims

Hundreds of people flocked to Istanbul airport on Tuesday to try to journey to southern Turkey to join the relief efforts. Among them were rescue workers, members of non-governmental organization groups and civilians:

By Haley Ott

Large cracks appear on Syrian dam

Large cracks have developed on a hydroelectric dam in Aleppo, Syria, a tweet from Syria TV shows:

Syria TV is a Turkey-based Syrian opposition channel.

Afrin, in rural Aleppo, is under the control of Turkish forces.

Syrian opposition groups fear that if the dam collapses, it would inundate the entire area, which would be disastrous for the thousands of displaced people living in nearby refugee camps.  

-- Khaled Wassef contributed reporting

By Brian Dakss

Freezing conditions could hamper earthquake rescue efforts

The weather in Turkey and Syria is expected to get drier and sunnier this week but remain freezing after heavy rain and snow hit the areas hit hardest by Monday's earthquakes, CBS News partner network BBC News reports.

The temperature is expected to be around 43 degrees Fahrenheit during the day in Gaziantep, where the earthquake struck, and drop to around 19.5 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

In the villages and towns closer to the mountains, the temperature could fall as low as five degrees Fahrenheit.

In Syria, the temperature is expected to be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit by day and 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit by night, the BBC reported. 

By Haley Ott

International soccer player Christian Atsu rescued alive from rubble

Thirty-one-year-old professional soccer player Christain Atsu was pulled alive from under rubble, officials from his current team, Hatayspor, in Turkey, said Tuesday.

Atsu, who previously played in the Premier League for Everton and Newcastle United, joined Hatayspor in September and was selected for Ghana's international team in 2019.

"Christian Atsu was pulled out injured. Our sporting director, Taner Savut, is unfortunately still under the rubble," Hatayspor's Vice President Mustafa Ozat said, according to the Reuters news agency.

By Haley Ott

Video shows child rescued from under rubble in Syria

A video shared by the White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer organization that operates in opposition-held parts of the country, often rescuing people from bombed-out buildings, shows a young child being pulled from the rubble after Monday's devastating earthquakes and aftershocks.

Syria, which has been ravaged by a brutal civil war for years, is calling on the United Nations for  help with its rescue efforts. The area that was worst affected by the earthquake is split between government-held territory, controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and opposition-held territory, which borders Turkey and is surrounded by government forces.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bassam Sabbagh, did not directly say whether other crossing points into the country from Turkey would be opened for aid deliveries. He said the government was ready to help deliver aid "to all Syrians in all territory of Syria," but said it must be coordinated through Damascus.

By Haley Ott

World Health Organization says "race against time" to save survivors

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was "now a race against time" to rescue people trapped after yesterday's earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

"Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes," Tedros said.

The WHO boss said that rescue efforts were hampered by continued aftershocks, damage to infrastructure, and severe winter conditions.

"We are especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information. Damage mapping is ongoing, to understand where we need to focus our attention," Tedros said.

He said the WHO was sending three charter flights to both Turkey and Syria with medical supplies, including surgical trauma kits.

"This is a moment when we must come together in solidarity, as one humanity, to save lives and alleviate the suffering of people who have already suffered so much," Tedros said.

By Haley Ott

Breaking down the latest details on deaths

Turkey's president, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Tuesday the death toll in his country had climbed to 3,549.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said earlier that another 20,534 people had been injured.

The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 812 people, with some 1,450 injured, according to the Health Ministry.

In the nation's rebel-held northwest, the opposition's Syrian Civil Defense, or White Helmets, the paramedic group leading rescue operations, said at least 790 had been killed and more than 2,200 injured. Those numbers were expected to "rise dramatically," the Reuters news service quoted the White Helmets as saying.

-- The Associated Press contributed reporting


WHO: Quake could impact 23 million people

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that Monday's earthquakes and aftershocks in northeastern Turkey and northern Syria could affect as many as 23 million people, Agence France-Presse reports.

AFP says WHO senior emergencies officer Adelheid Marschang told the U.N. health agency's executive committee, "Event overview maps show that potentially 23 million people are exposed, including around five million vulnerable populations."

By Brian Dakss
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