The death toll from historical earthquakes that rocked Turkey and Syria a week ago rose further Monday even as miraculous rescues fueled the tiniest hope for survivors seeking word on the fate of their loved ones.
Rescue workers in Turkey saved a 10-year-girl from the rubble of an apartment block Monday in the southern Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, 183 hours after a devastating earthquake shook the region, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported.
Thousands of bodies also were being removed from toppled buildings. Some survivors waited at the site of collapsed buildings for the bodies of their loved ones to be retrieved. And a week after the quakes hit, many people were in the streets still without shelter.
The magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 quakes struck nine hours apart in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on Feb. 6. Scores of strong aftershocks added to the damage as thousands of buildings collapsed. The confirmed death toll stood at more than 36,000 for the two nations Monday and was expected to rise in coming days.
The top United Nations aid official said he was encouraged by the increase in relief convoys rolling into Syria on Monday but warned that more must be done as the death toll from continued to rise amid occasional miraculous rescues.
“I am encouraged by the scale-up of convoys from the UN transshipment center at the Turkish border,” tweeted Martin Griffiths, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief. “We need to open more access points and get more aid out fast.”
Earlier, Griffiths had lamented that aid efforts had “failed the people in northwest Syria.”
How Syria’s war has hindered earthquake relief
Thousands of people have been killed in Syria by the earthquake that struck its border region with Turkey on Feb. 6 but aid has been slow to reach the most affected areas.
Reuters reports that relief efforts have been hampered by a civil war that has splintered the country and divided regional and global powers.
Here is a summary of challenges facing aid delivery in Syria.
Assad’s government says foreign countries should respect Syria’s sovereignty and that aid for any part of the country should enter via territory under government control.
In practice, aid for the rebel-held northwest has for years been delivered across the border from neighbouring Turkey, but the process requires U.N. Security Council approval every six months.
Russia, a veto-wielding council member which supports the Damascus government, has only approved opening a single crossing from Turkey into the northwest, saying U.N. aid should instead be channelled through Damascus and then across the front lines.
U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, who was visiting Syria on Monday, is lobbying at the United Nations to open additional crossings from Turkey to bring earthquake relief.
Can Aid Cross The Front Lines Inside Syria?
A few efforts to deliver humanitarian aid across Syria’s internal front lines since the earthquake struck have shown how fraught and difficult the process is.
A convoy from the Kurdish-led northeast destined for an area in the northwest held by Turkey-backed rebel factions – enemies that have fought numerous bouts of conflict during the civil war – was turned back on Thursday.
Sources on both sides traded blame for why the convoy didn’t cross, accusing each other of trying to politicize aid.
On Sunday a U.N. spokesperson said aid from government-held Syria into an area controlled mostly by a hardline Islamist group was held up by “approval issues”.
A source from the group, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, said it would not allow shipments from government-held areas.
On the government front
Mekdad, and Pedersen discuss boosting the role of the UN in responding to the effects of the earthquake.
Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Dr. Faisal al-Mekdad discussed Monday with the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen efforts that could be undertaken to enhance the role of United Nation in responding to the devastating effects of the earthquake in Syria, with emphasizing on the need not to politicize the humanitarian issue and respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, SANA reported.
Pedersen expressed his deep condolences for the earthquake victims, affirming readiness to do everything possible to help Syria overcome the effects of this disaster.
Mekdad, in turn, thanked the UN Secretary-General and the Special Envoy for their solidarity with Syria in light of this unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.
He stressed Syria’s keenness to provide all possible support to people affected by the earthquake and deliver humanitarian aid to all those in need in all areas without any discrimination.
Mekdad asserted Syria’s readiness to work closely with various United Nations agencies to strengthen and support the efforts of the Syrian state in facing the catastrophic repercussions caused by the earthquake.
A Jordanian land aid convoy departs to Syria
Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization announced the launch of a land aid convoy, loaded with medical and food supplies, to provide relief to the families affected by the earthquake, renewing its solidarity with Syria and its people in the face of its consequences.
The convoy heading to Syria, consisted of 14 trucks, four of which were loaded with medicines and medical supplies, and ten others loaded with food and relief items.
The Organization Secretary-General, Hussein Al-Shibli, said in a statement to SANA reporter ” Jordan follow-up and coordinate ,through us, with officials in Syria to provide all the needs of the stricken families and those injured as a result of the earthquake.
It is time to rally around the Syrian people, IMF Managing Director
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called upon the whole world to provide urgent assistance to Syria to deal with the consequences of the devastating earthquake that rocked it on last Monday.
“It is the time to stand by the Syrians who were shocked by the earthquake Reuters quoted Georgieva Monday as saying in a speech before The World Government Summit 2023 being held in Dubai, urging the international community to extend a helping hand in this regard.
Answering a question raised about the necessity of easing the sanctions that prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria, Georgieva replied, “The Syrians will not be able to hold out for a few more days without shelter, food or water”.