quake updates 8 survivors rescued in turkey aid groups urge more help for syria
Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

More than a week after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, there were a few glimmers of hope on Tuesday after rescuers in Turkey defied the odds by digging eight survivors out of the rubble and Syria’s authoritarian president, Bashar al-Assad, agreed for the first time in a 12-year civil war to open up more border crossings from Turkey so aid could flow into affected areas controlled by groups that oppose his government.

The combined death toll for the two countries rose further on Tuesday to nearly 36,000, along with the chaos, humanitarian challenges and finger pointing that have followed one of the deadliest disasters this century.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried on Tuesday to reassure a country that was already suffering from economic hardship before the quake struck. “Nobody should have any doubt: This nation overcame many disasters,” he said at the headquarters of the country’s emergency management agency in Ankara. “We will overcome this one, too.”

Here are the latest developments:

  • Death toll: The official death toll in Turkey stood at 31,974 on Tuesday. Syria’s toll had climbed to about 3,700.

  • Children: Millions of children are in need of urgent humanitarian support because of the earthquake, the United Nations Children’s Fund said. Although the total number of children in need is unclear, UNICEF noted that 4.6 million children live in the 10 provinces of Turkey that were hit by the quake and that more than 2.5 million children are affected in Syria.

  • The United Nations: The global body announced the launch of a $397 million humanitarian appeal for Syria covering a period of three months, and its secretary general, António Guterres, said that a similar appeal would be announced for Turkey. The organization has also released $50 million from its emergency funds for earthquake relief.

  • Improbable rescues: Workers dug Muhammed Cafer Cetin, 18, from the rubble of a building 198 hours after the devastating quake, according to the Turkish State broadcaster TRT, making it the third improbable rescue of the morning. The conditions of the eight survivors, all of whom were taken to a hospital, were unknown.

  • Criticism in Turkey: Critics of Mr. Erdogan, who is seeking to defend his response to the disaster, drew attention to videos showing him having earlier hailed some of the housing projects that crumbled in the quake and buried thousands of people. The Turkish authorities also arrested more contractors, including one connected to a collapsed 16-story building in the city of Adana, where at least 70 people died.

  • More aid reaches Syria: A Saudi relief plane carrying 35 tons of food and other aid arrived at Aleppo International Airport in Syria on Tuesday, in a part of the divided country controlled by the government. Dozens of aid groups working in Syria urgently called for an increase in international support.

People in between rows of tents in an emergency camp.
Tents supplied by Turkey’s emergency management agency in a camp for people sheltering after the earthquake, in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Sunday.Emin Ozmen for The New York Times

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey vowed on Tuesday to rebuild thousands of devastated homes, saying his country would overcome the earthquake as it had other historic disasters.

“This disaster has been called as ‘disaster of the century.’ This is not a great exaggeration,” he said in the capital, Ankara, at a meeting of cabinet ministers held at the national emergency management agency. “We will continue our fight together until the end.”

The agency, AFAD, has led a monumental rescue and relief effort, and has said that more than 238,000 Turkish and international workers are assisting. But the sheer scope of the disaster has meant that not only have more than 35,000 people been killed, but at least a million people have been left homeless.

Cities of makeshift shelters, using AFAD-supplied tents as well as tarps, cardboard, vehicles and debris, have been built around the earthquake zone in southern Turkey. Mr. Erdogan said that the government had made reconstruction one of its goals.

“Our aim is that in one year, we will start the construction and revival of the residences,” he said. “In the 10 provinces I’ve visited, my citizens first said ‘what will happen to my house?’”

“We will repeat the construction and revival as we did” in other provinces hit by earthquakes and floods in recent years, he added.

Flash floods killed dozens of people in northern Turkey in 2021, and last week’s earthquake was one of more than 70 of magnitude 6.5 or higher recorded in the region since 1900. But the 7.8-magnitude earthquake was also the deadliest in Turkey since 1939, and could take over a decade to rebuild from.

“This nation overcame many disasters,” Mr. Erdogan said in an address to AFAD staff members. “We will overcome this one too, nobody should have any suspicion. Since this great disaster, you fight day and night. You are the ones to give signs, morale to our nation. We trust in you, believe in you.”

Walking over rubble in Sarmada, Idlib Province, on Sunday.
Emily Garthwaite for The New York Times

Humanitarian groups working in Syria called on Tuesday for an urgent and significant injection of aid into all parts of the country affected by a powerful earthquake more than a week ago, saying that unfettered access was essential to relieve the suffering of survivors.

Because no additional equipment and help were sent to northwestern Syria for days in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, local rescue teams had managed to search only 5 percent of the affected areas, a joint statement by 35 international and Syrian aid groups said.

“The potential survivors trapped under the rubble of the other 95 percent were not rescued in time,” it said. “The international community failed the Syrian people by not reacting fast enough.”

At least 3,700 people in Syria were killed by the magnitude-7.8 quake, according to figures from the government and one of the main local rescue groups. But the United Nations estimates the death toll in the country could be up to 6,500, plus about 10,000 injured, the statement said. Nearly 32,000 people died in neighboring, with the toll still steadily rising.

“The humanitarian response must match the scale of the disaster,” the groups said in the statement.

In northwestern Syria, the earthquake’s damage spans two different zones of control in a country that has been carved up over 12 years of civil war: one held by the government of the authoritarian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the other by forces opposed to him.

The opposition side has received only a trickle of aid, in part because of the difficulties of getting access to the region. The government side, where outside relief has been coming in through major airports, tightly controls and restricts aid flows from its territory to the opposition side. And previously only one border crossing from Turkey was used for all United Nations aid flowing to the opposition-held side.

Mr. al-Assad has now agreed, for the first time since the war began, to allow two more border crossings from Turkey to be used temporarily to supply aid to opposition-controlled territory in the northwest.

The aid groups noted that millions of Syrians had lost their homes and were experiencing a new displacement after 12 years of war and trauma. The groups said they were “extremely concerned that the current level of response reaching the affected areas of Syria is nowhere near what is needed in the face of the devastation,” calling for a significant scale-up.

They also pointed to concerns over the growing number of unaccompanied children and the conditions in shelters and displaced-persons camps that are now full of people with no food, no water, no blankets and no heat.

On the government side, Abdul Qader Dawalibi, a local official in Aleppo, said in a telephone interview that 250,000 people had been left homeless in Aleppo alone, and that many shelters had opened in churches, schools and apartments. He said the government side needed more medicine, medical equipment and heavy equipment for engineers to help in demolishing uninhabited buildings and starting the reconstruction process.

Mr. al-Assad’s government has also called for a lifting of Western sanctions. “We need equipment for the engineers for the collapsed buildings” Mr. Dawalibi said, adding, “We don’t have spare parts because of the sanctions on us.”

“Homeless people need to be back home, but their homes need to be fixed and our capacity is very limited,” he said. “Dozens of buildings have been damaged from the quake, and every day we are facing the risk of more buildings collapsing.”

Heavy equipment digging through the rubble in Adiyaman, Turkey, on Saturday.
Emin Ozmen for The New York Times

The authorities in Turkey have arrested and charged at least nine contractors so far and detained scores of other people suspected of shoddy construction that violated building codes in the wake of a powerful earthquake that brought down tens of thousands of buildings in the south of the country last week.

Stricter building codes were put in place after a similar disaster in northwestern Turkey in 1999 killed more than 17,000 people. But residents have said that the codes were often not applied because contractors can earn more money when they cut corners: mixing the concrete and using cheaper metal bars to gird pillars, among other things.

Turkey’s death toll, nearly 32,000 now, is nearly twice the 1999 count and still rising, and experts have said that poor construction probably exacerbated the latest quake’s deadliness. The country’s justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, said on Sunday that legal proceedings against more than 130 people were underway over their suspected ties to collapsed buildings.

The minister of environment and urbanization, Murat Kurum, said on Monday that officials had tallied a total of 41,791 buildings that collapsed or sustained heavy damage, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Among those charged is Sukru Isitmen, a constructor of at least six collapsed buildings in the Besni district of Adiyaman Province. Mr. Isitmen, who was arrested in Adiyaman late Monday evening, is a member of the executive body of the district’s branch of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development Party.

Hasan Alpargun, the contractor of a collapsed 16-story building in Adana Province where at least 70 people have been killed, was arrested on Monday, the Anadolu news agency reported. He told a reporter from the Ihlas news agency while being taken to appear in court that he had not been negligent and that he was very remorseful.

“There is no building in Adana that is not damaged,” he said.

A contractor in Hatay Province, Omer Cihan, was arrested in the city of Antalya after the police found him in a five-star hotel that was hosting earthquake survivors, Anadolu reported. Another contractor from Hatay, Mustafa Erdogan Kececioglu, was arrested in Ankara, where he had been staying in a hotel.

Two contractors responsible for the construction of buildings that collapsed in the city of Adiyaman, Yavuz Karakus and Sevilay Karakus, were detained on Sunday at Istanbul Airport and were arrested the next day.

Searching through rubble for belongings in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on Tuesday.
Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

More than 35,000 lives were lost in Turkey and Syria in last week’s powerful earthquake, and the death toll is still rising.

Emin Ozmen for The New York Times
Emin Ozmen for The New York Times

Although rescuers have raced against time to work through the rubble, cold weather and shortages of fuel and truck complicated the efforts.

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Dozens of countries have sent aid-and-rescue teams to the region, but it has been difficult to deliver help to Syria.

Emily Garthwaite for The New York Times
Emily Garthwaite for The New York Times

New York Times photojournalists are covering the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Muhammed Cafer Cetin, an 18-year-old earthquake survivor, was rescued from the rubble of a building in Adiyaman, Turkey, on Tuesday.
Ihlas News Agency, via Reuters

After nearly 200 hours entombed in the rubble of a collapsed building in southeastern Turkey, an 18-year-old man was pried free by rescuers on Tuesday morning, becoming the third such improbable rescue of the day over a week after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake leveled towns, killed tens of thousands of people and displaced many more in Turkey and Syria.

By late Tuesday, five more people had been rescued — bright spots in one of the bleakest periods in memory for Turkey, which has lost more than 31,000 people to the quake since it shook the region early on Feb. 6. Relief organizations say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are a crucial time period for finding survivors.

Turkey’s National Defense Department and national broadcasters shared footage of the rescues amid mounting anxiety over the vast number of people left homeless and hungry, the arrests of contractors suspected of bearing some responsibility for the collapsed buildings, and the politically loaded recriminations over who should shoulder the blame.

In the devastated city of Adiyaman, the footage showed, the bright red and yellow hard hats and vests of aid workers surrounding the man, Muhammed Cafer Cetin, contrasted with his dust-caked skin and hair.

After digging him clear of the twisted iron and blocks of cement, they had attached him to an IV, fit him with an oxygen mask and wrapped him in a shimmering survival blanket. They then delicately carried him in a stretcher over the debris under which he had been buried toward an ambulance that was waiting to take him to the hospital. His condition was not immediately clear.

Hope also shimmered faintly in the city of Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter of the quake, where workers extracted two brothers, Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, and Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21.

The young men’s eyes were closed and their arms were bound in stretchers as rescuers in fatigues and bright vests carried them away. Desperate for good news, the workers embraced one another and cheered as the brothers left for the hospital.

There, the older brother explained to a reporter from the Ihlas news agency how the two had survived under the rubble with the help of supplements that he took as a body builder.

“Breathing was easy,” he said. “We drank our own urine. We took protein powder.”

Their mother had been rescued from the wreckage two days earlier and was being treated in a hospital in the city of Kayseri for leg injuries.

Humanitarian aid packages provided by Saudi Arabia for victims of the earthquake arrived at Aleppo International Airport in northern Syria on Tuesday.
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Saudi plane carrying 35 tons of food and other supplies for survivors of last week’s powerful earthquake arrived at Syria’s Aleppo International Airport on Tuesday, the first such delivery from the kingdom to government-controlled areas of the country.

Faleh al-Subai’i, the director of the Joint Efforts Team for Relief of the Earthquake Victims in Saudi Arabia, said that the kingdom had urged those distributing the aid on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad’s government to send it to all areas of Syria, including those controlled by the opposition. The country has been carved up into a number of zones of control during a 12-year civil war that still has not ended.

Although humanitarian aid has reached Aleppo and other government-controlled areas, far less of it has reached areas controlled by the opposition.

The plane, which is carrying food, medical supplies and tents, will be followed by second delivery on Wednesday and a third on Thursday, Mr. Al-Subai’i said, and others if necessary. The oil-rich kingdom has also sent planes filled with aid and rescue personnel to Turkey, where the earthquake killed nearly 32,000 people.

Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have led the pack in sending aid to Syria and Turkey since the earthquake struck on Feb. 6. The Emirati foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, visited Syria on Sunday and met with Mr. al-Assad, while Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, traveled to Turkey to show support for the regional ally.

A Saudi campaign to gather donations from individuals had raised more than $90 million as of Tuesday, and the U.A.E. has pledged $100 million in relief to be split between Turkey and Syria. Qatar has sent rescue personnel and other aid, including temporary housing that was used while the country hosted the men’s soccer World Cup last year.

The decision to send aid through a Syrian government-held area has not been without controversy in Saudi Arabia, however, as critics say that the regime cannot be trusted to distribute aid fairly. Saudi Arabia has also sent aid to the opposition-held northwest.

Although the United Arab Emirates has re-established relations with Mr. al-Assad since Syria’s civil war, Saudi Arabia has yet to follow suit.

Ahmed al-Omran contributed reporting.

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