Turkey-Syria quake: Death toll tops 41,000; First U.N. aid convoy enters Syria via new border crossing

Rescuers work in the rubble of a collapsed building in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on Tuesday after a pair of deadly earthquakes. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)
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The death toll from the two major earthquakes surpassed 41,000 in Turkey and Syria on Tuesday. The majority of the victims — at least 35,418 — were killed in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, making it the country’s worst disaster in a century.

Still, rescue workers continued to pull survivors from the rubble, including in hard-hit cities such as Antakya and Kahramanmaras. Also Tuesday, a U.N. aid convoy entered northwestern Syria for the first time through a newly opened border crossing with Turkey, after the Syrian government approved a U.N. request to allow more aid into the rebel-held enclave.

Dispatch: Crude equipment slows Syria rescue efforts

Here’s the latest on the aftermath of the earthquakes:

1. Key developments

  • Seventeen trucks loaded with aid entered northwest Syria on Tuesday through the Bab al-Salam border crossing, said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration. Tuesday’s aid included shelter materials, mattresses, blankets and carpets.
  • The United Nations also sent a delegation to northwest Syria to meet with local authorities and assess operational needs, Ammar Ammar, a spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund, said via email. It was the first U.N. team to cross into the rebel-held pocket since the earthquakes devastated the area last week. “In the coming days, we hope U.N. personnel will begin regular visits,” Ammar said.
  • The leader of the Syrian Civil Defense force criticized the U.N. decision to seek Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s permission to open more crossings. “This is shocking, and we are at loss at how the U.N. is behaving,” Raed al-Saleh, head of the organization also known as the White Helmets, told Reuters on Tuesday.
  • The death toll in Turkey and Syria reached 41,232. More than 35,418 are dead in Turkey, Erdogan said. Some 1,414 people have died in the government-controlled portion of Syria, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said, and another 4,400 are dead in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
  • One million people in Turkey have lost their homes following the earthquakes, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, estimated Tuesday. “We are still learning about its magnitude. Its true cost is not known yet,” Kluge said.

2. Aid efforts

  • Nearly 9,300 foreign nationals from 80 countries have assisted Turkey with search and rescue operations, the country’s Foreign Ministry said Monday night. About 100 countries have also offered assistance, showing the scale of the global response in Turkey while parts of Syria still struggle with low levels of aid.
  • A new soccer stadium in the Turkish city of Antakya is being used as a tent city for the displaced, local media reported. Footage of the stadium shows lines of neatly organized white tents in the building’s lot, with women and children shuffling through the area, lines of hanging laundry and men sharing a smoke in plastic outdoor chairs.
  • A Saudi plane carrying 35 tons of food, medical supplies and tents arrived in Aleppo on Tuesday, Syrian state news reported. Saudi Arabia wants to help those affected by the earthquake in all regions of Syria, said Faleh al-Subai’i, the director of the Saudi relief team. Delivering aid to Syria has been complicated by the effects of the war, which has left the country divided into government-controlled areas and an opposition-held pocket in the northwest.

3. Rescue operations

  • Search teams have pulled 8,000 survivors from the rubble of buildings since last week’s earthquakes, Erdogan said Tuesday. The Turkish president also said more than 2.2 million people have left the areas affected by the quakes.
  • Former Premier League and Ghanaian soccer player Christian Atsu remains missing, as his agent Nana Sechere pleaded for more resources to assist the ongoing search Tuesday. “I am at the quake site in Hatay with Christian’s family. The scenes are unimaginable and our hearts are broken for all the people affected,” Sechere wrote on Twitter. “Things are moving incredibly slow and as a result of that many rescues are being delayed, and lives are being lost due to the lack of resources available to the workers.”
  • Earthquake survivors are still being pulled from the debris, although fresh reports of miraculous survivals are growing rarer. A 17-year-old boy was dug out from rubble in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, after 198 hours, local media reported. A 26-year-old teacher was found alive in the ruins of a Hatay apartment building, the Anadolu agency reported Tuesday.
  • Excavators have begun knocking down heavily damaged buildings and hauling debris in Hatay, Turkey, Reuters video shows. Workers near the city of Antakya knocked down the tops of teetering concrete buildings.

4. The quake in images

Photos: The search continues for earthquake survivors in Syria and Turkey. Photojournalists captured the raw reactions of rescuers and victims as they crowded around collapsed buildings in a grueling quest to recover more people alive.