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Erdogan declares state of emergency in Turkey, as death toll exceeds 7,800

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 2/8/2023 Darryl Coote & Joe Fisher

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency on Tuesday, as the death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria surpassed 7,800.

The declaration covers 10 provinces most affected by the 7.8-magnitude tremblor that hit the Pazarcik district in Kahramanmaras Province on Monday, while also impacting neighboring areas in northwest Syria.

"We are facing one of the biggest disasters not only in the history of the Turkish Republic but also of our geography and the world," Erdogan said.

Erdogan added that it was the nation's "biggest relief" that more than 8,000 people had been rescued so far, adding that 53,300 search-and-rescue staff were surveying the area.

"This number is increasing with every passing hour, with teams coming from across the country and world," he said.

Turkey's Anadolu News Agency reported that at least 5,894 people were killed and 26,721 others were injured in the 10 Turkish provinces, according to data from the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

Figures from Syria are hampered by the ongoing civil war. The combined death toll from figures provided by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the humanitarian organization Syria Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets, equals about 1,930.

The White Helmets on Tuesday tallied more than 1,200 deaths in regions of Syria it serves.

However, the death toll is expected to continue to rise by the thousands as rescuers search for survivors and find bodies in the more than 5,600 buildings Turkish officials said were destroyed in the country. The White Helmets said late Tuesday that number of collapsed buildings has increased to more than 400 with more than 1,300 being "severely damaged."

"Time is running out," the White Helmets said on its official Twitter account early Tuesday. "Hundreds still trapped under the rubble. Every second could mean saving a life.

"We appeal to all humanitarian organizations and international bodies to provide material support and assistance to organizations responding to this disaster."

However, there are vicitories amid the horror, with the White Helmets on Tuesday celebrating the recovery of a young girl from under the rubble of her house in the town of Jenderes, north of Aleppo.

Video of the rescue posted on Twitter shows responders removing the girl, identified as only Jenderes, from the remnants of the down building and rushing her to a nearby ambulance.

"Moments of hope from the midst of the disaster," the White Helmets tweeted.

The United Nations on Tuesday also called for a cease fire to Syria's civil war that began in 2011 when the Assad regime attempted forcefully quell pro-democracy protests.

The ending of fighting is needed to "enable humanitarian and rescue workers to reach those in need without fear of attacks," Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said in a statement.

In Turkey, the AFAD said 60,217 search-and-rescue personnel, along with a cadre of vehicles and equipment, have been deployed to affected regions, including 3,251 responders from around the world who rushed to join them.

A team of 16 search and rescue dogs are on their way from Mexico City to help find victims who have been buried amid the quake, BBC reports. The dogs were an integral tool in search and rescue operations following 7.1 magnitude Puebla earthquake in 2017. More than 200 people were killed and 1,300 injured.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said it had activated Virginia Task Force 1, the urban search-and-rescue team of the Fairfax County fire department, and the USA-2 International Rescue Team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, to deploy to respond to the quake.

White Helmets Director Raed Al Saleh met with USAID head Samantha Power to discuss the best ways to assist earthquake victims, the group said on Twitter.

So far, the European Union has deployed 1,150 search-and-rescue personnel and 70 dogs that make up 27 teams to Turkey, Janez Lenarcic, the European commissioner of crisis management, said via Twitter on Tuesday.

Britain, Greece and Israel have also offered assistance, among others.

And the World Health Organization is planning to transport medical supplies, including major surgical trauma kits, to Syria and Turkey on three chartered flights.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they are "especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information" but damage mapping is ongoing.

"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," he said Tuesday during an executive board meeting.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Disaster Center, which is monitoring the situation, states that an estimated 23 million have negatively affected by the earthquake.

According to the United Nations, Syria had the largest number of internally displaced people in the world at 6.8 million with around 14.6 million in need of humanitarian assistance, which was the situation prior to the earthquakes.


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