Live Updates I Focus turns to quake aid, as rescues continue
Emergency crews made a series of dramatic rescues in Turkey on Friday, pulling several people from the rubble four days after a catastrophic 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed more than 23,000 in Turkey and Syria. Temperatures remain below freezing across the large region, and many people have no place to shelter. The Turkish government has distributed millions of hot meals, as well as tents and blankets, but is still struggling to reach many people in need.
The Latest on the earthquake:
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations has pledged a $25 million grant for people in earthquake-stricken areas of Syria. That’s in addition to a $25 million grant announced earlier this week for emergency operations in both Turkey and Syria.
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Friday the new grant from the U.N. emergency fund would help meet the urgent needs of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. He said humanitarian conditions in the country were at their worst since the conflict began in 2011, with dwindling resources, a cholera outbreak and harsh winter conditions.
U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said around 130 urban search-and-rescue teams from around the world are working in Turkey, and another 57 teams are on their way.
In response to Syrian critics who say the U.N. isn’t doing enough to help find victims, the spokesperson said the U.N. does not have its own search-and-rescue teams. Instead, it has a coordinating role through its disaster assessment teams.
A U.N. disaster assessment team is in Syria and deploying to government-controlled Aleppo, Homs and Latakia, Dujarric said. A second U.N. aid convoy entered Syria’s rebel-held enclave on Friday from Turkey, bringing shelter and non-food items.
The U.N. World Food Program has delivered food aid to 115,000 people in Turkey and Syria in the first four days since the earthquake struck, and the U.N. World Health Organization delivered 72 metric tons of trauma and emergency surgery supplies to both countries, he said.
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— A glance at the world’s deadliest quakes in the past 25 years
— Find more AP coverage at https:// apnews.com/hub/earthquakes
LATAKIA, Syria — Syria’s state news agency SANA says paramedics have succeeded in pulling a mother and her two adult children from under the rubble of a building in the coastal town of Jableh.
SANA says the three survivors are Duha Nurallah, 60, her son Ibrahim Zakariya, 22, and her daughter Rawiya 24.
The three were immediately rushed away in ambulances late Friday, the fifth day after the earthquake that hit Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 23,000 people.
Although experts say trapped people can live for a week or more, the chances of finding survivors are dimming. The rescues Friday in Syria and Turkey have provided fleeting moments of joy and relief amid the misery gripping the shattered region, where morgues and cemeteries are overwhelmed.
NICOSIA, Cyprus – Funeral services have been held in the breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus for some of the 10 people whose bodies were repatriated from the earthquake-devasted Turkish city of Adiyaman.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said the bodies of seven children who were members of their school’s volleyball team, two teachers and a parent were brought back Friday after being pulled out of the rubble of the collapsed Isias Hotel.
Tatar expressed “heartfelt condolences and sympathies” to the families and friends of the deceased.
A group of 39 people, including members of the girls and boys volleyball teams, were staying in the hotel when it collapsed Feb. 6. Search efforts are continuing to try to locate all of them.
Turkish Cypriot authorities have already sent a team of rescuers including 17 riot police and 10 firefighters to the Kahramanmaras area. Another 200 rescue workers and eight vehicles are expected to arrive later to Turkey.
GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency estimates as many as 5.3 million people may have been left homeless in Syria because of the earthquake.
Sivanka Dhanapala, the country representative in Syria for UNHCR, told reporters Friday that the agency is focusing on shelter and relief items such as tents, plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, sleeping mats and winter clothing for people in need.
Even before the Feb. 6 temblor, around 6.8 million people had been displaced within Syria because of the war that erupted in 2011 — some of those driven from their homes multiple times.
Dhanapala says some supplies had been delivered from government-controlled areas to the rebel-held northwest of Syria prior to the quake, and those “pre-positioned” supplies have already been distributed from warehouses.
UNHCR hopes an agreement with the Damascus government will pave the way for faster, more regular access to the northwest.
DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian government has decided to allow earthquake aid to reach all parts of the country, including areas held by insurgent groups in the northwest.
Syrian state TV reported that the government announced during a meeting Friday that all aid deliveries would be made under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to guarantee that they reach people in need.
The government also decided to set up a national fund to help areas hit by Monday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its aid mission to Turkey has recovered the body of Antakya’s Jewish community leader and that of his wife.
It took members of “The Olive Branches” team 48 hours to locate and recover the bodies of Saul and Fortuna Cenudioglu, the military said.
The couple were trapped under the rubble of their demolished house. They were buried afterward.
BEIRUT — A Syrian opposition official says more than 700 Syrians who died in Turkey in this week’s earthquake have been brought home for burial through a border crossing with Syria.
Mazen Alloush, an official on the Syrian side of the border, told The Associated Press on Friday that about 720 more bodies have been brought back home for burial since Monday.
Turkey is home to some 3.6 million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country that broke out 12 years ago.
ADIYAMAN, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described the powerful earthquake that ravaged parts of southeast Turkey as “one of the greatest disasters our nation has faced in its history.”
Touring the province of Adiyaman on Friday, Erdogan said search-and-rescue efforts would continue until no one is left trapped beneath the rubble.
He renewed a promise to rebuild the area within the year, and also said the government would subsidize rents for one year for people unwilling to stay in tents.
The president, who faces tough elections in May, again acknowledged a slow government response in the initial stages of the quake. He said the fact that many first responders were caught up in the disaster was one of the reasons for the slow start.
Addressing reports of looting in the region, Erdogan said a state of emergency declared in the 10 affected province would allow authorities to prevent such incidents.
ALEPPO, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad has accused western countries of politicizing Syria’s humanitarian crisis following the Feb. 6 earthquake.
Assad spoke briefly to reporters Friday in the demolished Masharqa neighborhood of Aleppo during his first visit to the quake zone following the 7.8-magnitude temblor.
He said: “The West has no humanitarianism, therefore politicizing the situation in Syria is something they would naturally do.”
The devastating damage to Aleppo, Syria’s second and largest city, compounds the woes of the war-scarred city that faced years of bombardment in the 12-year conflict, much of it by Assad’s forces and those of his ally, Russia.
During his visit to Aleppo on Friday, Assad visited Aleppo University Hospital and then met with rescuers in Masharqua, where paramedics on Thursday removed the bodies of 44 people and seven others alive from one building.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s head of emergencies, were also arriving in Aleppo on Friday to help coordinate and support the delivery of aid.
BAB AL-HAWA, Syria — The United Nations says the first earthquake-related aid convoy of 14 trucks has crossed from Turkey into rebel-held northwestern Syria.
The road to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing was obstructed for days following the quake due to road damage and debris from collapsed buildings.
The U.N. International Organization for Migration said in a statement that Friday’s convoy carried “essential relief items.”
A first convoy of six trucks into Syria’s rebel-held enclave had crossed the border on Thursday, but those trucks carried aid that had already been scheduled to be sent before the devastating quake.
The United Nations is not authorized to deliver aid into Syria through other border crossings under a U.N. Security Council resolution.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party has declared a cease-fire in its conflict with Turkey to facilitate rescue operations following the devastating earthquake.
According to a spokesperson for the group, Zagros Hiwa, the cease-fire comes on the orders of PKK leader Cemil Bayik “to allow rescue operations and reduce pain of affected people in disaster zone.” Hiwa added Friday that it is an “open cease-fire” but “depends also on Turkey’s response,” meaning “if they attack us, we will respond.”
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has waged an armed insurgency against Turkey since 1984 with the aim of establishing a Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, which has since morphed into a campaign for autonomy. The conflict between militants and state forces has killed tens of thousands of people.
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