Home News Turkey-Syria quake live briefing: Death toll of 33,000 considered underestimate

Turkey-Syria quake live briefing: Death toll of 33,000 considered underestimate


The death toll from the earthquakes that devastated southern Turkey and northwestern Syria has surpassed 33,000, with more than 29,600 dead in Turkey alone, according to the country’s emergency management authority. The chances of survival for those who remain trapped under the rubble are falling by the hour, though rescue efforts are ongoing.

Officials have warned that the toll is likely an underestimation. More than 1.1 million people are staying in temporary accommodation centers in Turkey.

Here’s the latest on the aftermath of the quakes.

1. Key developments

  • More than 29,600 people in Turkey and 3,400 in Syria have been killed in the quakes, officials in the two countries said. More than 2,100 people have died in rebel-held northwest Syria, the Syria Civil Defense group said. In areas under Syrian government control, at least 1,387 people were killed, though the state media has not shared an updated death toll since Thursday.
  • “We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria,” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said during a visit to the Turkish-Syrian border. The U.N. official said people there “rightly feel abandoned” as they look for “international help that hasn’t arrived.” Getting aid to Syria has been deeply complicated by a civil war that has left the country divided under conflicting political control, The Washington Post reported. Humanitarian efforts there have so far been inadequate.
  • Some operations in northwestern Syria shifted their focus to recovering bodies and helping people who were displaced, while rescue efforts in Turkey entered their seventh day. Though some survivors have been extracted from the rubble more than 130 hours after the quakes, the chances of finding more people are dwindling.
  • Turkey’s Justice Ministry Bekir Bozdag said it opened “earthquake crimes investigation” offices to probe possible negligence or wrongdoing that left buildings vulnerable to collapse during the quakes. Authorities have identified some 134 suspects and arrested at least 14 people over alleged building negligence, Turkish media reported. Bozdag added that authorities had reported at least 75 incidents of looting and theft in the affected areas and arrested 50 people. “Unfortunately, people are exploiting people’s pain,” he said Sunday in a press conference.
  • Two contractors responsible for buildings that collapsed in the city of Adiyaman were detained on Sunday at Istanbul Airport, local media reported. The pair were reportedly on their way to Georgia. Two more people were arrested in the province of Gaziantep for allegedly cutting down columns to make extra room in a building that collapsed, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

2. Aid efforts

  • The situation on the ground is “bleak beyond belief,” Britain’s minister for development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, told Sky News. Rescue and aid operations have been well-coordinated in Turkey, he said, but it’s been “much more difficult to get help and relief” to Syria because of the political situation there.
  • Greece’s foreign minister met his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in the southern Turkish province of Adana, near the epicenter, on Sunday and are scheduled to visit Hatay province by the Syrian border later in the day, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency reported. He also met with members of the Greek aid mission and discuss possible further support from Athens for earthquake recovery, the Greek Foreign Ministry said.
  • The European Union is urging member states to provide help to Syria and ensure that sanctions against its government “do not impede” aid delivery, said the bloc’s envoy to Syria, Dan Stoenescu, Reuters reported. He added that the E.U. would seek safeguards to ensure aid is not diverted only to regions loyal to the Syrian government.
  • Turkish officials are preparing to create “container cities” to help displaced victims, with shipping containers arriving in the southern city of Adiyaman, local media reported, citing Turkey’s minister of transportation and infrastructure, Adil Karaismailoglu. Such settlements have been used during smaller-scale earthquakes in Turkey, as well as to house Syrian refugees who have fled their country’s civil war. The Turkish emergency management agency AFAD previously said that each container has two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.
  • UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements met Sunday with Syrian government officials to discuss cooperation and aid for those affected by the earthquake. Minister of Social Affairs Mohamed Seif El-Din said in a press release that they discussed the possibility of using the UN cash transfer program established for Syrian refugees displaced by the war for the support of earthquake victims.

3. Rescue operations

  • The partner of Christian Atsu, the professional soccer player who has been missing in southern Turkey since the quakes struck, called for rescue equipment to be sent to the collapsed building in which Atsu was living. “I appeal for the Hatayspor club, the Turkish authorities, and the British government, to send out the equipment to get people out of the rubble — especially my partner and father of my children,” Claire Rupio, who lives in England, told BBC News. “They need the equipment to get them out — they can’t get that deep without the equipment. And time is running out.”
  • Two German organizations suspended their rescue operations in Turkey, citing security problems and word of violent clashes between groups of people as resources become increasingly scarce, Reuters reported. An Austrian team also briefly suspended its operations in the Hatay region on Saturday, The Post reported. Marcel Taschwer, a spokesman for the Austrian military, said there were “some troubles and aggressions” among upset residents, some of whom have said they were neglected by authorities in the earthquakes’ aftermath.
  • More than 130 countries have sent search and rescue teams or other experts to help with the aftermath, the U.N.’s Griffiths said in a video. He added that the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will soon make appeals for aid on behalf of Syria and Turkey.
  • Chilling yet remarkable rescue stories emerged over the weekend, including accounts of rescued pets and a surveillance footage clip of two nurses at a neonatal hospital in Gaziantep, Turkey, who kept infant incubators upright as they shook. Another video showed a crew rescuing a 7-month-old baby after 140 hours of being trapped under rubble, and a 17-year-old said he drank his own urine to survive dehydration after being trapped for about 94 hours, Turkey’s English media outlet TRT World reported. The Post has also captured video of grueling rescue efforts in Antakya, Turkey.

4. From our correspondents

She lost her husband in the quakes. No one knows how to tell her about her son: Recovering from a Turkish hospital bed in Islahiye, Najwa Ibish, a refugee from Syria, remembers waking up after an earthquake collapsed her home to find her husband dead. And as she mourns her husband, her family has not had the heart to tell her about her middle son, who has been put on life support, Louisa Loveluck and Alice Martins report.

From her hospital bed, Najwa asks for 10-year-old Mohamed often, but no one knows how to tell her that doctors do not expect him to recover. It is a common dilemma across southern Turkey and northern Syria, where survivors are struggling to protect grieving loved ones from further pain.

Sarah Dadouch, Cindy Boren and Semanur Karayaka contributed to this report.