Freezing temperatures deepened the misery Thursday for survivors of a massive earthquake in Turkiye and Syria that killed at least 15,000 people, as rescuers raced to save countless people still trapped under rubble.
The death toll from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake is expected to rise sharply as rescue efforts near the 72-hour mark that disaster experts consider the most likely period to save lives.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday conceded “shortcomings” after criticism of his government’s response to the massive earthquake, which is one of the deadliest this century.
The issue of aid to Syria is a delicate one, and the sanctioned government in Damascus made an official plea to the EU for help, the bloc’s commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic said.
A decade of civil war and Syrian-Russian aerial bombardment had already destroyed hospitals, collapsed the economy and prompted electricity, fuel and water shortages.
The European Commission is “encouraging” EU member countries to respond to Syria’s request for medical supplies and food, while monitoring to ensure that any aid “is not diverted” by President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Lenarcic noted.
Dozens of nations, including the United States, China and the Gulf States have pledged to help, and search teams as well as relief supplies have already arrived.
The European Union was swift to dispatch rescue teams to Turkiye after the massive earthquake struck the country on Monday close to the border with Syria.
But it initially offered only minimal assistance to Syria because of EU sanctions imposed since 2011 on Assad’s government over its brutal crackdown on protesters that spiralled into a civil war.
The Turkiye-Syria border is one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. Monday’s quake was the largest Turkey has seen since 1939, when 33,000 people died in eastern Erzincan province.