‘They can’t wait a week… they need the help now’: Britons in Turkey plead for people in UK to send the earthquake-hit country money – as death toll exceeds 16,000
- Confirmed death toll rose to 16,546 on Thursday, President Tayyip Erdogan said
- At least 1,347 people have been killed in Syria and 2,295 others injured
Britons in Turkey pleaded for people in UK to send money to the earthquake-hit nation as the death toll rose to 16,546 on Thursday
At least 1,347 people have been killed in Syria and 2,295 others injured from deadly earthquakes this week, state media reported today, citing Syria’s health minister. The figure excludes rebel-held areas of Syria.
Debs Handy, 59, moved to Turkey from the UK in 2020. Now living in Calis, Fethiye, in south-west Turkey, with her husband, she and other expats have been gathering donations for people who work in Fethiye’s hospitality industry who have family in areas impacted by the earthquake.
Handy said: ‘It’s great what the UK are doing… but they need the help now, today. They can’t wait a week, they’re sleeping in their cars.’
Pictured: Hatay, one of the epicenters of the earthquake that affected many provinces of Turkey, is one of the provinces with the highest number of dead and injured. Seen in Hatay on February 9, 2023
Pictured: Rescue workers search for survivor on a collapsed building in Adiyaman, southeastern Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023
She said she was ‘galvanising’ friends and family in the UK to send them money so they could go shopping on behalf of those affected.
She told the PA news agency: ‘Every expat has brought a bag of either food, water, blankets, clothing.’
Firefighters from across the UK have joined the International Search and Rescue Team (UK-ISAR) to begin rescuing those who became trapped in the rubble since the 7.8 magnitude quake hit on Monday.
Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), said millions of people in Turkey and Syria are in ‘desperate need’ of aid.
The Prime Minister said the Government will match £5 million in funds raised through an appeal to help the rescue and relief effort in the aftermath of the earthquake.
More than 70 ISAR-UK volunteers are currently taking part in the rescue effort. On Thursday, they tweeted to say they had recently managed to rescue two women, aged 60 and 90, from the rubble.
Debs Handy, 59, (pictured) moved to Turkey in 2020 from the UK having previously lived in Chichester. Now living in Calis, Fethiye, in south-west Turkey, with her husband, she and other expats have been gathering donations for people who work in Fethiye’s hospitality industry who have family in areas impacted by the earthquake
However, smaller search crews have spoken of a ‘frustrating’ delay in flying out to help.
Martin Phillips, who volunteers with Wiltshire-based humanitarian response charity Serve On, said he was part of a 13-strong team flying out to Turkey from London Stansted airport on Thursday to assist with the rescue effort.
Speaking about the delay, he told PA: ‘It is frustrating. It’s nobody’s fault as such – the Turkish authorities wanted medium and heavy teams in first.
‘So we’ve we’ve had to wait a little while.
‘Normally, the light teams get in first and lay the pathway for the bigger teams coming in.
‘That’s not how it’s worked this time, but that’s for others to decide whether that was a way forward or whether it was better for light teams to come in.
‘We just put in our applications, told people what we can do and we’ve been pushing to get in – now we can.’
The first 7.8-magnitude quake hit the Turkish city of Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday, reducing thousands of homes and buildings across the south of the country and northern Syria to rubble as people slept.
Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (pictured), said millions of people in Turkey and Syria are in ‘desperate need’ of aid
A series of aftershocks has left tens of thousands injured and survivors are feared trapped under thousands of collapsed buildings.
On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverley said the department’s Crisis Response Hub is working to support at least 35 Britons caught up in the disaster – including three who were missing.
When asked how he would encourage Brits who might be struggling with the cost of living to donate to the appeal, Mr Saeed emphasised the ‘brutal’ impact of the earthquake on people’s lives.
He said: ‘We have got to position ourselves in the situation these families find themselves in.
‘Their lives have been brutally turned upside down, they’ve lost family members, they’ve potentially lost their jobs, schools have been destroyed, hospitals have been destroyed.
‘They have lost all their possessions and they are now reliant on the support of other people so whatever we can give, however small it is, is going to go a long way to helping those families.
‘I am sure if we found ourselves in their position we would hope and expect that others around the globe would want to reach out to help us.’
Pictured: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to press at the tent city set up at Botanik Garden by Disaster and Emergency Management Authority
Relief efforts have been hampered by damaged infrastructure, freezing winter temperatures and limited medical facilities.
Serve On is part of the European Association of Civil Protection Voluntary Teams, and Mr Phillips said fellow crews from across Europe had told them it was ‘chaos’.
He said: ‘They’re feeding back to us a picture of what it’s like – it sounds like the usual chaos.
‘You can’t have a disaster on this scale without everything falling over and being in a mess and it takes time to unravel that.’
The Syrian volunteer organisation, White Helmets, said ‘time is running out’ as ‘hundreds of families’ remained trapped under the rubble.
On Twitter, they posted: ‘We are at a critical point. Time is running out, hundreds of families are still stuck under the rubble.
‘Every second means saving a life.’
An aid convoy reached rebel-held northwestern Syria on Thursday, the first since a devastating earthquake that has killed thousands, an official at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing told AFP.
Mazen Alloush, media officer at the crossing noted the delivery had been expected before Monday’s quake, but said: ‘It could be considered an initial response from the United Nations, and it should be followed, as we were promised, with bigger convoys to help our people.’
Pictured: Rescue teams carry the body of a victim from a destroyed building after a devastating earthquake rocked Syria and Turkey, in the costal town of Jableh, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement the delivery includes blankets, mattresses, tents and ‘basic relief items… to cover the needs of at least 5,000 people’.
‘We are working very closely with authorities to support in any way we can and hope that aid will quickly reach those most impacted,’ said IOM head Antonio Vitorino.
However, the White Helmets rescue group that operates in rebel-held areas said they were disappointed by the aid, which they said was part of ‘routine’ deliveries.
‘This is certainly not special aid and equipment for search and rescue teams,’ they said in a statement on Twitter.
‘This makes us very disappointed at a time when we are desperate for such equipment to help us save lives from under the rubble.’
Britain said on Thursday it was committing additional funding – at least £3 million – to support search and rescue operations and emergency relief in Syria following earthquakes in the region.
‘Given the magnitude of the earthquakes and difficulties in accessing affected areas in North West Syria, the UK will be providing The White Helmets with additional funding to aid their major search-and-rescue operations,’ Britain said in a statement.
A photo taken with a drone shows emergency services working among the rubble of collapsed buildings in the aftermath of a poweful earthquake in Kahramanmaras, southeastern Turkey, 09 February 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday pushed for more humanitarian aid access to northwestern Syria from Turkey, saying he would be ‘very happy’ if the United Nations could use more than one border crossing to deliver help after a deadly earthquake struck the region this week.
The Syrian government views the delivery of aid to the rebel-held northwest from Turkey as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since 2014 the United Nations has had a UN Security Council mandate allowing it to reach millions of people in need in the area via one crossing.
Speaking to reporters in New York, Mr Guterres said now was the time to explore all possible avenues to aid and personnel into the area affected by the earthquake.
‘Many non-UN relief agencies are already delivering through other crossings,’ Mr Guterres said.
‘I will be very happy if, in relation to the UN, there will be the possibility to do it also in as many crossings as possible.’
Mr Guterres did not say whether he has specifically asked the Syrian government to allow aid deliveries through more border crossings, but he did reference the 15-member UN Security Council’s ability to approve such a measure.
‘It is obvious that we need massive support,’ Mr Guterres said. ‘I will be, of course, very happy if the Security Council could reach a consensus to allow for more crossings to be used.’
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (file photo). Guterres on Thursday pushed for more humanitarian aid access to northwestern Syria from Turkey, saying he would be ‘very happy’ if the United Nations could use more than one border crossing to deliver help after a deadly earthquake struck the region this week
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths will visit Gaziantep in Turkey and Aleppo and Damascus in Syria this weekend to assess needs and see how the United Nations can step up support, Mr Guterres said. UN aid delivery into northwestern Syria from Turkey resumed on Thursday after it was briefly halted by the earthquake.
Rescuers pulled more survivors from beneath collapsed buildings Thursday, but hopes were starting to fade of finding many more people alive over three days after a catastrophic earthquake and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria.
The quake that razed thousands of buildings was one of the deadliest worldwide in more than a decade.
The deaths have surpassed the toll from a 2011 earthquake off Fukushima, Japan, that triggered a tsunami, killing more than 18,400.
Erdogan has declared seven days of national mourning in Turkey, while buildings in Israel and Bosnia have been lit up in memory of those who have died.
The initial 7.8-magnitude night-time tremor, followed hours later by a slightly smaller one, wiped out entire sections of major Turkish cities in a region filled with millions of people who have fled the civil war in Syria and other conflicts.
The later 7.5-magnitude quake struck at 1.24pm (10.24 GMT) two and a half miles southeast of the town of Ekinozu and around 60 miles north of the first quake that wrought devastation across Turkey and Syria.
The US Geological Survey warned that fatalities from the quakes could reach 10,000.
Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones, sitting in a fault line.
The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 – the worst to hit Turkey in decades.
That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.
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