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Live updates: UN official sees ‘apocalyptic’ scenes in quake-hit Türkiye

Türkiye has arrested 184 people suspected of role in the collapse of buildings in this month’s earthquakes and investigations are widening.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that more than 600 people had been investigated. Those formally arrested and remanded in custody include 79 construction contractors, 74 people who bear legal responsibility for buildings, 13 property owners and 18 people who had made alterations to buildings, he said.

AFAD says the quakes, centred in the country’s Kahramanmaras province, were followed by 9,136 aftershocks, leaving at least 44,218 people dead in Türkiye. In Syria, the death toll has hit 5,914. 

Here is how you can help the earthquake victims. 

Following are the latest updates:

2000 GMT —
Scale of devastation in Türkiye ‘truly incomprehensible’

The head of the United Nation’s World Food Programme [WFP] has said he was confronted with “apocalyptic” scenes as he visited earthquake-stricken areas in southern Türkiye.

“There is only one way to describe what I saw today: apocalyptic,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said after visiting the city of Antakya in Turkey’s Hatay province.

“Entire neighbourhoods have been flattened; homes destroyed, schools and shops closed; lives torn apart.

The scale of devastation here is truly incomprehensible,” he said.

The official added in a statement that the situation on the Syrian side amounted to a “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe,” referring to the past 12 years of civil war.

1533 GMT — Saudi Arabia sends 14 aid planes to quake-hit Türkiye, Syria

Saudi Arabia has dispatched 14 planes loaded with relief aid to the victims of the February 6 earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, according to a Saudi spokesperson.

“Each plane carries between 30-40 tons of aid to the quake victims,” Samer al Jutaili, a spokesman for the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, told the local media. 

He said the first phase of the Saudi humanitarian aid focused on providing food, shelter and medicine to the quake victims.

“Saudi Arabia will continue its air bridge to relieve the quake victims in both Türkiye and Syria,” the spokesman said.

Following the earthquake disaster, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center launched a donation drive on February 8 for the quake victims in Türkiye and Syria.

More than 362 million riyals (nearly $96 million) have been collected so far as part of the drive, according to the Saudi government’s Sahem Platform, which is responsible for the donation campaign.

1516 GMT — Schools reopen as Syrians live with quake’s devastation

Schools have resumed classes in Syria’s opposition-held northwest after closing for nearly three weeks following an earthquake that devastated the region, local officials said, even as many schoolchildren suffer from shock.

Many students were absent from their classes Saturday as their homes were damaged by the quake and their families now reside far away from the schools, said Abdulkafi al Hamdou, a citizen journalist in the opposition-held region.

“Some students were worried about being inside the building and were on edge whenever they heard a sound such as a desk being moved,” al Hamdou said by telephone while visiting a school. 

Many schools were turned into temporary shelters following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Türkiye and neighbouring parts of Syria on February 6 and killed tens of thousands of people.

1418 GMT — Turkish, Egyptian foreign ministers discuss post-quake situation

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry have discussed the deadly February 6 earthquakes in southern Türkiye.

In the phone call, Cavusoglu and Shoukry exchanged views on the latest developments after the quakes, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

Condolences have poured in from around the world expressing solidarity with Türkiye, with many countries sending rescue teams and aid, including Egypt.

1331 GMT — Egypt hosts benefit market for quake victims in Türkiye

The Egyptian capital, Cairo, has hosted a benefit market for the victims of the February 6 deadly earthquakes that killed thousands in Türkiye.

The market was organised by Turkish citizen, Tursim Cankaya, in Madinaty neighbourhood in eastern Cairo.

Participants offered Turkish sweets, handicrafts, hot drinks and other products for sale, according to an Anadolu reporter. 

The aim of this event is to collect donations for those affected by the earthquake,” Cankaya told Anadolu Agency. 

1239 GMT — Turkish, Azerbaijani military medics tend to thousands in quake-hit Kahramanmaras

Military doctors from Türkiye and Azerbaijan have been working hand in hand to treat patients in Kahramanmaras, one of the 11 southern Turkish provinces devastated by the February 6 twin tremors.

In a field facility set up at the Necip Fazil City Hospital, 20 Azerbaijani military medics – 12 physicians and eight nurses – have been treating hundreds of patients along with their colleagues from the Turkish Armed Forces.

About 2,000 patients have been examined and 85 surgical procedures performed at the field hospital, which has been set up in 19 containers and 21 tents. 

1210 GMT — Pakistani doctors care for Türkiye quake victims in spirit of brotherhood 

Pakistani doctors tending to earthquake victims in Türkiye’s southern Hatay province have said their efforts reflect the spirit of brotherhood between the two nations.

“Our team is here to support earthquake victims,” Waqas Ahmed, a Pakistani doctor, told Anadolu at a tent city set up in Hatay’s Defne district.

Ahmed is part of a team that has come from Germany as part of an aid mission by Humanity First, an international charity focused on disaster relief.

He said the team has been treating physical injuries, such as cuts and wounds, as well as providing psychological support for trauma.

Ahmed, the field director for Humanity First at the tent city, said the team has so far tended to some 8,000 patients.

Recalling Türkiye’s help after a 2008 quake in Pakistan, he added: “We should not forget that that humanity comes first, no matter our color, religion or nationality.

1124 GMT — Magnitude 5.3 earthquake jolts Türkiye’s central Nigde province

The earthquake had a depth of 7 kilometres (4.34 miles) and hit the Bor district at 1.27 pm local time (1027GMT), the Turkish disaster management agency AFAD said.

No casualties have been reported so far.

Vice President Fuat Oktay said response teams are on the ground to assess any damage.

“There is no negative situation at the moment. May Allah protect our country and our nation from all kinds of disasters,” he said on Twitter.

1116 GMT — Serve ‘it is our own country,’ Qatari commander asserts leading Türkiye quake relief mission

Qatar is trying to help people in Türkiye’s quake-hit regions “as if it is our own country,” according to a Qatari military commander.

“When this disaster occurred, we took action on the very first day, as instructed by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani,” Lt. Col. Hamad al Hajri told Anadolu at the Incirlik Air Base in the southern Adana province, where his team is stationed with four helicopters and a C-130 plane.

“Within a few days, our aircraft were ready to carry supplies to the regions in need. After that, humanitarian aid, such as medical supplies, have been arriving from Qatar every day, and this is still continuing,” he added.

“From the first day, we have been working in close cooperation with the Turkish Armed Forces, like a team. It is just like we are in Qatar,” al Hajri emphasised.

0830 GMT — Turkish first lady meets head of UN-Habitat 

Turkish first lady Emine Erdogan has met Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), in Istanbul. 

In a meeting at the Huber Villa, Sharif conveyed her condolences to the Turkish nation over the deadly February 6 earthquakes. 

Sharif said UN-Habitat has teams working in the affected regions and stands ready to support reconstruction efforts.

0640 GMT — Efforts to airlift aid continue from Türkiye’s Incirlik Air Base 

Efforts for airlifting aid to Türkiye’s quakes-hit southern region continue via an air corridor set up at the Incirlik Air Base following twin quakes that were centred in Kahramanmaras province. 

After the 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude quakes struck 11 other provinces, aid materials donated as a part of national and international campaigns converged at the base in southern Adana province. 

The Helicopter Coordination Center of the Turkish Armed Forces ensured the delivery of the materials to quake-hit zones via air or land. 

Turkish Armed Forces aircraft brought from different provinces, including the AS532 Cougar, Chinook CH-47F and Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, are taking part in airlifting efforts. 

Aid packages containing tents, sleeping bags, blankets, hygiene kits, food and medical supplies, as well as materials for children and babies, are loaded onto military helicopters to be delivered to victims through the air aid corridor.

0635 GMT — Containers from Qatar, other countries on way to Türkiye

Containers for quake victims in Türkiye from Qatar and other countries are on their way, the Turkish transport and infrastructure minister said. 

Adil Karaismailoglu said at a news conference in Adiyaman province that containers will arrive at Turkish ports and will be distributed to provinces affected by the quakes.

“We are working on the transfer of our citizens living in tent cities to container cities,” he said.

0453 GMT — Canada directs another $20 million in quake aid 

Canada has answered the UN call for more aid, announcing another CAN$30 million (US$22 million) for those affected by the disastrous earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. 

The funds come from $20 million in direct relief, and the government will match $10 million in donations to the Humanitarian Coalition, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement. 

The Humanitarian Coalition is the creation of World Vision, Oxfam and Plan International. The organisation is supplying food, water and health assistance to earthquake survivors. 

Canadian lawmakers had asked the federal government to ante up more matching funds and the UN had urged countries to donate more in financial aid.

0420 GMT — US announces $50 million in aid to quake victims in Türkiye, Syria 

President Joe Biden has said the US will provide up to $50 million in aid to refugees affected by the February 6 twin earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. 

Biden authorised Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide the funds to meet the urgent needs of people affected by earthquakes. 

To meet unexpected refugee and immigration needs arising from the earthquakes, Biden announced earlier this month that it was in US interests that up to $50 million in assistance. 

The funds, he said, would be provided to the afflicted from the US Refugee and Migration Emergency Assistance Fund (ERMA) under the Immigration and Refugee Relief Act (MRAA).

For our live updates from Friday (February 24),
click here.

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