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Death Toll in Turkey and Syria Rises as Search and Rescue Efforts Continue


Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023

ELBISTAN, TURKEY - Local people and rescue volunteers take part in a search operation on February 7, 2023 in Elbistan Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and were felt in nearby countries. (Photo by Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images)

The death toll continued to grow in Tukey and Syria following yesterday’s early morning 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes that struck southeast Turkey, near Gaziantep, and northern Syria. According to government figures from Turkey and Syria, more than 7,800 people have been killed. However, local responders in Turkey fear that many more people may have already died. WHO estimates the death toll could surpass 20,000 people.

“We know that thousands of people are still under buildings and because more than 6,500 buildings collapsed, and lots of them were apartments between five and 15 floors,” said Gulcin Guresci, CEO of AKUT, a nonprofit volunteer rescue organization that is now focused on helping find people in damaged buildings.

Guresci referenced an example of a city with tens of thousands of people where the mayor told them half of the residents are under buildings.

“It is impossible to reach all the people before they die under the buildings,” she said.

In addition to grave concerns about traumatic injuries and suffocation, frontline responders have also noted the cold temperatures as a critical challenge.

“Hypothermia is the biggest problem for them,” Guresci said about people trapped in collapsed buildings, adding that many roads have been damaged and that snowfall has further hampered efforts to move aid overland since there is a lack of snowplows.

In Syria, the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS) reported hundreds of fatalities in their area of operation, northwest Syria. It said four of its health facilities had sustained damage, including two that had to be evacuated and are currently out of service. Turkey’s Ministry of Health said today that 15 hospitals are significantly damaged.

“We are in urgent need of medical supplies to treat the wounded and expand our capacity for trauma response, as well as diesel fuel for ambulances and generators to keep our equipment running and our hospitals warm,” a statement to Direct Relief from the charity read.

Multiple nonprofit aid organizations in the area have confirmed that the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, the only crossing point for humanitarian aid between Turkey and northwest Syria, has been closed.

SAMS has been active in responding to the humanitarian crisis borne of the Syrian Civil War, now in year 11, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced over 13 million people. A cholera outbreak is currently underway in the region, with more than 84,600 suspected cases reported in Syria since August last year. The case fatality rate is 0.12%.

Turkey is home to more than 3.7 million refugees from the war, most of whom live in southwest Turkey, around the earthquake’s epicenter.

To help address acute needs in the aftermath of this disaster, Direct Relief is responding to requests from its network of regional healthcare partners for emergency med packs, antibiotics, cardiovascular medicines, analgesics, personal hygiene kits, oral rehydration salts, acetaminophen, and prenatal vitamins, and more.

Direct Relief is mobilizing urgent deliveries of these requested items and has also committed $200,000 in cash assistance to support on-the-ground search and rescue efforts — a $100,000 grant to AKUT and a $100,000 grant to SAMS.

Turkey-Syria Earthquake

Direct Relief’s Response

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