Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: 10 February

GAZIANTEP, Turkey / HOLEB, Syria — A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria in the early hours on Monday leaving wide-spread devastation and killing thousands. Many people are still believed to be trapped under the rubble and rescue efforts are ongoing. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Kahramanmaras near Gaziantep, Turkey, and was felt as far as Cyprus, Beirut, and Erbil, Iraq.

SyriacPress will continue to update this article as most information becomes available. See our previous coverage here: 6 February, 7 February, 8 February, and 9 February.

Earthquake Humanitarian Aid from North and East Syria Prevented from Crossing into Northwestern Syria by Turkish-Backed Groups and Syrian Regime

19:02 CET — A humanitarian aid convoy carrying food, fuel, and blankets organized by the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria destined for earthquake-stricken areas in Northwestern Syria is being held-up by Turkish-backed factions.

“So far: the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition do not allow the entry of relief aid convoys from the areas of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria,” wrote journalist and fixer Mohammed Hassan via Twitter.

Local administrations and communities across North and East Syria have done what they can for to put together aid for those affect by the earthquake despite their own difficult economic circumstances.

In Dirbasiyah (Dirbêsiyê), a fundraising tent was set up by the local administration to collect donations for earthquake victims.

The residents of Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor) organized the collection and transportation of furniture, clothing, blankets, and money to help those in the northwest of the country devasted by the earthquake.

US Department of Treasury Exempts Some Syrian Sanctions to Facilitate Earthquake Aid

18:17 CET — After international appeals for aid to be delivered to those affected by the earthquake in Syria, the US Department of the Treasury issued an exception to some sanctions. The exception was made to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including disaster relief efforts in response to the earthquake.

The US sanctions program does not target legitimate humanitarian aid and the US government already has several general licenses in place under the Syria Sanctions Regulations (SySR) that permit the UN, US government agencies, and non-profit organizations (NGO) to engage in transactions supporting not-for-profit humanitarian activities, including in regime-held areas.

This new authorization expands the broad humanitarian authorizations already in effect for NGOs, international organizations (IO), and the US government agencies under the SySR. In its press release the Treasury stated that the decision reflects the US’s commitment to supporting the people of Syria during the ongoing earthquake crisis.

Civil defense workers and security forces search through the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Hemto (Hama), Syria. (Image: Omar Sanadik / AP)

Following the Treasury’s announcement, In Defense of Christians Executive Director Richard Ghazal commented to SyriacPress that, “The US Treasury Department’s grant of a general license to authorize earthquake relief in Syria is a welcome development, and indeed a testament to what makes America great. Hopefully this relief is felt on the ground by the affected civilians.”

The Washington-based human rights and advocacy organization previously stated via press release on Wednesday that the catastrophic series of earthquakes dramatically exacerbates the human tragedy left in the wake of the twelve-year Syrian Civil War. IDC made an appeal to the United States government to put aside political conflicts at the moment and consider all available means to contribute to rescue efforts and provide humanitarian assistance.

“This disaster has devastated civilians — not governments. In the face of a human tragedy of this magnitude, the international community should not condition humanitarian support on a political litmus test. According to the U.S. State Department, ‘U.S. and international sanctions include exemptions for humanitarian aid.’”

IDC points to the many capable and experienced NGOs, civil society organizations, churches and other faith-based organizations on the ground in Syria and Turkey who are ready to assist in the time-critical rescue effort and provide relief.

The authorization does not allow transactions related to the import of oil or petroleum products of Syrian origin to the United States or transactions involving individuals covered by sanctions against Syria.

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo emphasized that US sanctions in Syria will not obstruct life-saving efforts for the Syrian people. “As international allies and humanitarian partners mobilize to help those affected, I want to make it very clear that US sanctions in Syria will not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people,” Adeyemo said.

Additionally, USAID announced that the US will provide $85 million to Turkey and Syria, which will be paid to partners on the ground to provide emergency assistance to millions of people. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US will continue to demand that aid not be impeded in Syria and called on the Syrian government to allow aid to enter through all border crossings between Turkey and Syria.

Three Members of Armenian Family of Four Killed in Building Collapse in Malatya, Youngest Boy Only Survivor

14:01 CET — In the wreckage in Malatya, Turkey, three members of the Armenian Tabaş family — Ayda, Sami, and Alex — were killed when their home collapsed in Monday’s devastating earthquake. The only survivor from the family of four was a little boy.

Ayda and Sami were killed directly in the collapse. Their two sons were pulled from the building alive and rushed to the nearest functioning hospital. However, 20-year-old Alex died in the hospital a day later. The little boy, the only survivor of the family, was discharged from the hospital days later into the custody of relatives.

Ayda, Sami, and Alex who are members of the Malatyan Philanthropic Armenians Culture and Solidarity Association, were buried today in Malatya’s Armenian Cemetery.

Israeli Rescue Team Recovers Bodies of Turkish Jewish Community Leader and Wife from Collapsed Building in Antakya

13:07 CET — The ZAKA emergency rescue organization announced in a statement on Thursday that Israeli rescue workers have located the bodies of Saul Cenudioglu, leader of Antioch’s (Antakya) small Jewish community, and his wife, Fortuna Cenudioglu, who had been missing since the earthquake struck the region earlier in the week. The couple was found days after being missing.

The deaths of Saul and Fortuna Cenudioglu are the first confirmed fatalities among the Turkish Jewish community. Saul was the head of the local Jewish community, which consists of just a dozen elderly members.

Saul Cenudioglu, leader of the Jewish community in the southern Turkish town of Antakya, and his wife Fortuna.

A delegation of rescue specialists from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and civilian rescue organizations have been working in Turkey to assist with the efforts to find the thousands of people who are still believed to be trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings. The ZAKA statement said that after three days of attempts to reach the area, a special rescue team comprised of IDF Home Front Command soldiers and ZAKA volunteers arrived in Antioch on Wednesday night.

The rescuers worked for many hours in difficult conditions at the building where the Cenudioglus lived to try and locate them.

Unfortunately, they were found lifeless.

The statement added that the volunteers of the Israeli delegation in Turkey are continuing their efforts to locate any signs of life and rescue more civilians from the ruins.

Earthquake Death Toll over 21,000; Survivors Mourn Dead as Hope Dwindles in Rescue Operations

12:37 CET — Over 21,000 fatalities have been reported in both Turkey and Syria as rescue teams continue working urgently to extract those who are still alive from the wreckage of fallen structures amidst the harsh winter weather. Official sources have also stated that at least 78,000 individuals have been injured in both countries.

The Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, announced that they have been working for over 90 hours in challenging conditions to save those who are trapped under debris.

The volunteer group stated that they will continue with the rescue operations in the affected regions of northern Syria under opposition and Turkish control.

They also tweeted a warning that the prospects of finding survivors are becoming increasingly slim. The areas that have been impacted include the rural areas of Holeb (Aleppo) and Edleb (Idlib) in Syria.