Erdogan declares state of emergency in Turkey, as death toll exceeds 6,000

Rescue teams evacuate a victim pulled out of the rubble on the second day following an earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey. Photo by Turk Jandarma/UPI

Feb. 7 (UPI) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency on Tuesday, as the death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck southern Turkey surpassed 6,000.

The declaration covers 10 provinces most affected by the 7.8-magnitude tremblor that hit the Pazarcik district in Kahramanmaras Province on Monday, while also impacting neighboring areas in northwest Syria.

“We are facing one of the biggest disasters not only in the history of the Turkish Republic but also of our geography and the world,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan added that it was the nation’s “biggest relief” that more than 8,000 people had been rescued so far, adding that 53,300 search-and-rescue staff were surveying the area.

Rescue teams search for victims in the rubble on the second day following an earthquake in Kahramanmaras Turkey on Tuesday Photo by Turk JandarmaUPI

“This number is increasing with every passing hour, with teams coming from across the country and world,” he said.

Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency reported that 4,544 people were killed and 26,721 others were injured in the 10 Turkish provinces, according to data from the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

Figures from Syria are hampered by the ongoing civil war. The humanitarian organization Syria Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets, tallied more than 1,020 additional deaths in other parts of northwestern Syria. More than 2,400 people were injured in the region as well.

The death toll, however, is expected to continue to rise by the thousands as rescuers search for survivors and find bodies in the more than 5,600 buildings Turkish officials said were destroyed in the country. The White Helmets said Tuesday that more than 360 buildings had been completely destroyed and 1,000 more had been “severely destroyed” as a result of the quake.

“Time is running out,” the White Helmets said on its official Twitter account early Tuesday. “Hundreds still trapped under the rubble. Every second could mean saving a life.

“We appeal to all humanitarian organizations and international bodies to provide material support and assistance to organizations responding to this disaster.”

In Turkey, the AFAD said 13,740 search-and-rescue personnel, along with a cadre of vehicles and equipment, have been deployed to affected regions, while thousands more from around the world were rushing to join them. Early Tuesday afternoon the agency said 2,769 teams from 65 countries had offered assistance.

A team of 16 search and rescue dogs are on their way from Mexico City to help find victims who have been buried amid the quake, BBC reports. The dogs were an integral tool in search and rescue operations following 7.1 magnitude Puebla earthquake in 2017. More than 200 people were killed and 1,300 injured.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said it had activated Virginia Task Force 1, the urban search-and-rescue team of the Fairfax County fire department, and the USA-2 International Rescue Team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, to deploy to respond to the quake.

White Helmets Director Raed Al Saleh met with USAID head Samantha Power to discuss the best ways to assist earthquake victims, the group said on Twitter.

So far, the European Union has deployed 1,150 search-and-rescue personnel and 70 dogs that make up 27 teams to Turkey, Janez Lenarcic, the European commissioner of crisis management, said via Twitter on Tuesday.

Britain, Greece, Israel and the United States and have also offered assistance.

And the World Health Organization is planning to transport medical supplies, including major surgical trauma kits, to Syria and Turkey on three chartered flights.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they are “especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information” but damage mapping is ongoing.

“This is a moment when we must come together in solidarity, as one humanity, to save lives and alleviate the suffering of people who have already suffered so much,” he said Tuesday during an executive board meeting.


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