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Turkey-Syria quake live briefing: Turkish airport reopens to aid shipments; death toll exceeds 34,000

An airport in Hatay, a hard-struck part of southern Turkey, reopened for aid deliveries Sunday after earthquakes had damaged its runway. However, help is still slow to reach parts of Syria.

The death toll between both countries exceeded 34,000 on Sunday.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the U.N. Security Council to expedite the aid process by authorizing more border crossings to northwest Syria, a rebel-controlled area.

Here’s the latest on the aftermath of the earthquakes:

1. Key developments

  • The death toll across Syria and Turkey rose to 34,179 on Sunday. In Turkey, 29,605 people were recorded dead, the country’s emergency management agency AFAD said. In the government-controlled portion of Syria, 1,414 people have died, according to the state-run SANA news agency. The rebel-run Syrian Salvation Government’s Health Ministry reported 3,160 deaths.
  • Thomas-Greenfield urged the Security Council to allow two additional border crossings into northwest Syria. “People in the affected areas are counting on us. They are appealing to our common humanity to help in their moment of need,” she said in a statement Sunday. “We cannot let them down — we must vote immediately on a resolution.”
  • The Hatay Airport reopened Sunday after repairing earthquake damage, adding a key port for aid deliveries and evacuations to the devastated region. Airmen in uniform were seen unloading a small mountain of cardboard boxes containing mattresses and blankets Sunday night, footage on Turkey’s TRT World showed.
  • About 26 million people across Turkey and Syria have been affected by the earthquakes, with dozens of medical facilities damaged, the World Health Organization said in a recent report, which makes an appeal for nearly $42.8 million in immediate aid. At least 15 hospitals in Turkey have suffered damage, the report added, while 48 health facilities in northwest Syria have been affected.
  • A Syrian investigator who exposed wartime injustices died in the earthquakes, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability said. Known as Mustafa, the lawyer exposed the killing of civilians in the Syrian city of Homs in 2012, the CIJA said in a statement.
  • Fadi Al-halabi, a cinematographer for the Oscar-winning documentary short “The White Helmets,” said 13 members of his family died. “My family is gone,” he wrote on Facebook, sharing photos of children posing at a picnic and in front of ocean waves.

2. Aid efforts

  • Trucks hauling U.N. relief supplies entered northwest Syria on Sunday in a “scale-up of convoys” coming from a center at the Turkish border, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a tweet. A total of 52 U.N. trucks entered Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Thursday through Monday, a U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson, Madevi Sun-Suon, said by email Monday.
  • The U.N. had “so fair failed the people in north-west Syria,” Griffiths said Sunday. “They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived. My duty and our obligation is to correct this failure as fast as we can.”
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, according to a readout of their phone call. Von der Leyen promised to mobilize “additional support” to respond to Turkey’s request for blankets, tents and heaters. She also promised to partner with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to mobilize funds at a conference organized with Turkish officials, which will take place in Brussels in March.

United Hatzalah, an Israeli search-and-rescue group, announced that it is leaving Turkey over a “concrete and immediate threat” to security after just six days, Israeli media reported, citing Dov Maisel, the group’s vice president of operations. The group arrived in the country on Feb. 7 and helped extract survivors out of the rubble in Kahramanmaras, Turkey.

  • Kelly T. Clements, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for refugees, met with Syrian officials Sunday to discuss cooperation and aid. Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Seif El-Din said in a news release that they discussed the possibility of using the U.N. cash transfer program established for Syrian refugees displaced by the war to support earthquake victims.

3. Rescue operations

  • Nearly 4,500 search and rescue operations have been underway in Turkey, and about 400 have been completed, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in a news conference late Sunday. “We have been experiencing the largest disaster in history,” he added, through an interpreter. “We are working very hard to manage it.” Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s vice president, said the country has about 34,700 people working on rescue operations.
  • A 44-year-old woman was extracted alive from ruins 165 hours after the earthquakes in Turkey’s Adiyaman province, footage aired on TRT World shows. Surviving more than 130 hours in the rubble “becomes more and more remarkable without any access to water,” Christopher Colwell, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told The Post.

4. From our correspondents

  • Syrian veterinarians are saving pets and farm animals that lost their humans in the earthquakes: An animal sanctuary in rebel-held Syria has been working tirelessly to save dogs, cats, chickens and other creatures trapped or injured in rubble after years of also trying to do so during a grueling civil war, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff reports.


  • Louisa Loveluck, Amanda Coletta, Paulina Villegas, Claire Parker, Ellen Francis and Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post