Monday's earthquake is the most powerful recorded in Turkey since 1939, UN says


A woman looks on as rescuers search for survivors under the rubble following an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

By Sahar Akbarzai, Feb. 7: The United Nations said the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Turkey early Monday was the county's most powerful quake in more than 80 years.

“This is Türkiye's most powerful earthquake recorded since 1939," a situational report released Monday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said.

UNOCHA said emergency response teams from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and World Health Organization's Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) are being mobilized to Turkey to assist in the humanitarian response. 

"The UN and partners are closely monitoring the situation on the ground and are looking to mobilize emergency funds in the region," the report said. 

In Syria, millions of displaced people face harsh winter as quake destruction raises risk of disease

By Rhea Mogul

More than 4,300 people have killed on either side of the Turkey-Syria border when the 7.8-magnitude quake hit southern Turkey in the early hours of Monday. But with thousands more injured and an unknown number missing, it’s feared the final toll could be much higher.

In Syria, a country already suffering the effects of civil war, the devastation following Monday's earthquake is widespread.

Death toll: At least 1,136 people were killed in the quake, Syrian state news agencies reported, with fears more remain buried within rubble. Much of northwestern Syria, which borders Turkey, is controlled by rebels, and aid agencies warn of an acute humanitarian crisis that is likely to be felt for months to come.

Equipment shortfall: The UN's humanitarian coordinator in Syria, El-Mostafa Benlamlih, told CNN the search and rescue mission was being hampered by a lack of heavy equipment and machinery. He said the UN’s supply of stock has been distributed and more medicine and medical equipment are needed, especially freshwater or tools to repair damaged water tanks.

Vulnerable population: Around 4 million people in northern Syria were already displaced and relying on humanitarian support as a result of war, according to James Elder, spokesman for UNICEF. “Everyone is overstretched in that part of the world … there is an enormous amount to do,” he said. “People have fled their homes often standing around in bitterly cold conditions really without access to safe water. So water is key. Blankets, food, psychological support.”

Disease risk: Hospitals in the country are overwhelmed as victims seek help, with some facilities damaged by the quake. And there is particular concern about the spread of illness, especially among children, who were already living in extreme hardship. This winter had been particularly tough due to the freezing conditions and a cholera outbreak, Elder said.

Plea for international aid: A volunteer with the “White Helmets” group, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, said the organization does not have enough help to handle this disaster. “Our teams are working around the clock to help to save the injured people. But our capabilities, our powers are not enough to handle this disaster,” Ismail Alabdullah told CNN. “This disaster needs international efforts to handle.”

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