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Earthquake in Turkey and Syria | Death toll rises to more than 11,700



(Aleppo) Rescuers still manage to find survivors in the rubble on Wednesday, even if the chances of survival are dwindling, two days after the terrible earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the toll of which continues to grow and now exceeds the 11,700 dead.


  • Death toll from powerful earthquake in Turkey and Syria exceeds 11,700;
  • The 7.8 earthquake on the Richter scale was followed by major tremors, felt in Lebanon, Cyprus and northern Iraq;
  • The first teams of foreign rescuers, from France and Qatar in particular, arrive on Tuesday;
  • US President Joe Biden has pledged “all the help needed, whatever it is”;
  • This earthquake is the largest in Turkey since the earthquake of August 17, 1999, which caused the death of 17,000 people, including a thousand in Istanbul;
  • The country is in national mourning for seven days.

Rescuers have been working in freezing cold for two days after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked southeast Turkey and neighboring northern Syria at dawn on Monday, followed by powerful replicas.

Bad weather complicates the task of rescue while the first 72 hours are crucial to find survivors, according to the head of the Turkish Red Crescent, Kerem Kinik.

In the Turkish province of Hatay (South), hard hit by the earthquake, children and adolescents have been removed from the rubble of a building. “Suddenly we heard voices and thanks to the excavator […] we were immediately able to hear three people at the same time,” one of the rescuers, Alperen Cetinkayanous, told AFP. “We expect there to be more […]the chances of getting people out of here alive are very high”.

In this province, the city of Antakya (ancient Antioch) is on the ground, drowned in a thick cloud of dust due to clearing machines digging through the rubble.

“Antakya is over”, repeat residents. As far as the eye can see, there are only collapsed or partially collapsed buildings. Even those who are still holding are deeply cracked and no one dares to stay there.

In Gaziantep, a Turkish city near the epicenter, a resident has lost hope of finding her aunt alive, buried under the rubble. ” It’s too late. Now we are waiting for our dead,” she confides.


“People are dying every second”

Turkey deplores at least 8,574 dead, announced its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who visited the city of Kahramanmaras, epicenter of the earthquake. This is the worst toll since the 1999 earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.4 and which killed 17,000 people, including a thousand in Istanbul. In 1939, 33,000 people died in an earthquake in the province of Erzincan (east).

In Syria, 2,662 bodies have been pulled from the rubble so far according to authorities as well as rescue workers in rebel areas.

Twenty-three million people are “potentially exposed, including around five million vulnerable people”, warned the World Health Organization (WHO).

Syria has in turn requested, after Turkey, the aid of the European Union, European Commissioner Janez Lenarcic announced on Wednesday. He encouraged EU states to support this country, which has been hit by international sanctions since the start of the civil war in 2011, which devastated its infrastructure, particularly in the North.

In the rebel areas, the White Helmets (civil protection volunteers) implored the international community to send aid. “People are dying every second under the rubble,” spokesman Mohammad al-Shebli told AFP.

In Aleppo, in the government zone, Russian soldiers rescued a man from the rubble overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced. A total of 42 people have been rescued since the earthquake by Russian soldiers, of whom more than 300 are involved in the rescue, according to the Russian army.

In Turkey, where the ten affected provinces have been placed in a state of emergency for three months, international aid began to arrive on Tuesday.

Dozens of countries have offered their help to Ankara, including those of the European Union and the Gulf, the United States, China and even Ukraine which, despite the Russian invasion, is sending 87 rescuers.


Mehtez Farac, 8, was pulled alive from the ruins of a collapsed building on February 8, 2023 in Hatay, Turkey.

“Where is the state? »

At the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he prayed for the victims of “this devastating calamity” and encouraged “everyone to show solidarity with these lands already partly martyred by a long war”.

In areas where help is slow to arrive, survivors feel quite alone. In Jandairis in the rebel zone in Syria, “even the buildings that did not collapse were badly damaged”, explains Hassan, a resident who wishes to remain anonymous.

“There are around 400 to 500 people trapped under each collapsed building with only 10 people trying to get them out. And there are no machines,” he adds.

On the Turkish side, in Kahramanmaras, devastated and buried under the snow, no help, no help had reached Tuesday in this city of more than a million inhabitants, devastated and buried under the snow.

“Where is the state? Where is he ? […] It’s been two days and we haven’t seen anyone. […] The children froze to death,” complains Ali, who still hopes to see his brother and nephew again, trapped in the ruins of their building.

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