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Earthquake death toll passes 5000 as rescuers race against time in Turkiye, Syria

Pakistan Armed Forces stand with our Turk brethren: ISPR.


ISLAMABAD/ADANA    –    The death toll from earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria swelled to over 5000, as the rescue and re­covery operations are underway despite freezing weather. 

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total number of deaths in Turkey had risen to 3,419, with another 20,534 peo­ple injured. The death toll in government-held areas of Syr­ia climbed to 812 people, with some 1,450 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In the country’s rebel-held northwest, the opposition’s Syrian Civil De­fense, or White Helmets, the paramedic group leading rescue operations, said that at least 790 were killed and more than 2,200 injured. That brought the overall total to 5,021.

Authorities fear the death toll will keep climbing as the rescuers look for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete spread across the region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

Rescue teams continued search for survivors among the rubble of thousands of top­pled buildings following the 7.8 magnitude deadly earthquake. Turkish and Syrian disaster re­sponse teams said more than 5,600 buildings were flattened including many multi-storey apartments where residents were asleep as the quake struck. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has an­nounced seven days national mourning in the country for the victims the earthquake.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will travel to Ankara Wednesday to express his condolences and solidarity, according to a state­ment from Islamabad. World leaders have pledged to send aid after Turkiye issued an interna­tional appeal for help.

In the wake of devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and northern Syria, UN aid agencies have scrambled to help many thousands of reported victims, including those still believed to be buried under the rubble.

A Level 4 alarm has been is­sued by the Turkish govern­ment, requesting international assistance. In northwest Syria, 4.1 million people rely on hu­manitarian assistance, mostly women and children.

A cholera outbreak is also on­ going in Syrian communities, coupled with harsh winter weather. The World Health Or­ganization has warned that up to 23 million people could be affected by the massive earth­quake in Turkiye and Syria. 

The body’s senior emergen­cies officer Adelheid Marschang told the WHO’s executive com­mittee in Geneva that the WHO considers that the main unmet needs may be in Syria.

Meanwhile, the WHO chief also vowed that the agency will work closely with all partners to sup­port authorities in both coun­tries in the critical hours and days ahead, and in the months and years to come as both coun­tries recover and rebuild.

Attempts to reach survivors were also impeded by tempera­tures below freezing and close to 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.

Nurgul Atay told reporters she could hear her mother’s voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, but that her and oth­ers efforts to get into the ruins had been futile without any res­cue crews and heavy equipment to help.

Across Hatay province, just southwest of the earthquake’s epicenter, officials say as many as 1,500 buildings were de­stroyed and many people re­ported relatives being trapped under the rubble with no aid or rescue teams arriving. In areas where teams worked, occasion­al cheers broke out through the night as survivors were brought out of the rubble.

The quake, which was cen­tered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cai­ro. Sebastien Gay, the head of mission in Syria for Doctors Without Borders, said health fa­cilities in northern Syria were overwhelmed with medical per­sonnel working around “around the clock to respond to the huge numbers of wounded.”

In Turkey’s Hatay province, thousands of people sheltered in sports centers or fair halls, while others spent the night outside, huddled in blankets around fires.

Turkey has large numbers of troops in the border region with Syria and has tasked the mili­tary to aid in the rescue efforts, including setting up tents for the homeless and a field hospi­tal in Hatay province. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said a hu­manitarian aid brigade based in Ankara and eight military search and rescue teams had also been deployed.

A navy ship docked on Tues­day at the province’s port of Iskenderun, where a hospital collapsed, to transport survi­vors in need of medical care to the nearby city of Mer­sin. Thick, black smoke rose from another area of the port, where firefighters have not yet been able to douse a fire that broke out among shipping containers that were toppled by the earthquake.

In the Turkish city of Gazian­tep, a provincial capital about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicenter, people took ref­uge in shopping malls, stadi­ums, mosques and community centers.

More than 7,800 people were rescued across 10 provinces, ac­cording to Orhan Tatar, an offi­cial with Turkey’s disaster man­agement authority.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Au­rangzeb said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Shehbaz Shar­if would leave for Ankara on Wednesday (today) to express condolences and solidarity with President Erdogan and people of Turkiye over loss of precious lives and destruc­tion caused by the yesterday’s deadly earthquake.

In a tweet she said that the All Parties Conference convened on Thursday (February 9) had been postponed and a new date would be announced after con­sultation with the allies.

The Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) C-130 Hercules aircraft carry­ing members of Search & Res­cue Team and blankets from PAF Base, Nur Khan has landed in Turkiye. 

The PAF aircraft was carry­ing relief goods from people of Pakistan for the earthquake affected brethren of Turkiye, a PAF news release said. The transport fleet of Pakistan Air Force has always been at the forefront to respond to natural disasters and calamities both inland and abroad.

A 51-member team from Pa­kistan on Tuesday morning left for Turkiye to participate in res­cue and relief activities in the areas affected by a 7.8-magni­tude earthquake that caused widespread destruction.

“A 51-member Rescue Team has just left for #Turkiye via #PIA flight PK707 from #La­hore along with their 7 tons of special rescue equipment. 

They will be on the ground soon as part of @GovtofPa­kistan’s contributions to res­cue efforts. Hearts & prayers to #earthquakeinturkey victims,” a PIA spokesman said in a tweet.

, in a press statement, he said the Pakistan International Air­lines (PIA) operated flights to Istanbul (Turkiye) daily which would be available for dispatch­ing rescue and relief assistance.

The PIA administration has also made the delivery of relief goods free of charge on human­itarian grounds for Turkiye and Syria, the spokesman said.

The relief assistance can be delivered to PIA’s cargo termi­nals through National Disaster Management Authority.

He said the national flag carri­er had always been at the fore­front during emergencies for relief assistance and vowed that PIA would extend all pos­sible services to bring back the quake-affected Pakistanis to the homeland if needed. 

Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for Turkiye Earthquake Victims, G-12166, has been officially es­tablished. Office of the Control­ler General of Accounts has is­sued notification in this regard.

The decision to establish the fund was taken at a meeting of federal cabinet in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Chairing the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz Shar­if appealed the people to gener­ously donate for the earthquake victims in Turkiye.

The cabinet members also an­nounced to donate their one month salary to the relief fund. The meeting decided that gov­ernment employees from Grade 18 to 22 will donate their one-day pay to the fund.

The Prime Minister briefed the cabinet members about his telephonic conversation with Turkish President Re­cep Tayyip Erdogan immedi­ately after the earthquake, in which he expressed his deep grief over the devastation caused by the earthquake and assured of his full cooperation to the government and people of Turkiye. 

The Prime Minister said PIA and Pakistan Air Force flights carrying relief goods, rescue teams, doctors and paramedics have left for Turkiye and deliv­ery of more relief supplies will continue.

At the outset of the meeting, the Cabinet prayed for the vic­tims of earthquake in Turki­ye and Syria and speedy recov­ery of the injured. The Cabinet also set up a committee headed by Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar to review the Criminal Laws Amendment Bill 2023 sent by the Ministry of Interior.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says the soli­darity with earthquake victims of Turkiye and Syria should be translated into tangible and timely material support.

In a tweet on Tuesday, he de­scribed the scenes of death and destruction in devastating earthquake as mind numbing.

The Prime Minister said it breaks the heart to witness sheer scale of unfolding human tragedy.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Sa­hir Shamshad Mirza, Services Chiefs and Armed Forces (AFs) of Pakistan offered their deep­est condolences to earthquake victims in Turkiye.

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