February 8, 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake news

By Rhea Mogul, Sana Noor Haq, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 0502 GMT (1302 HKT) February 9, 2023
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5:08 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Border crossing between Turkey and Syria has received 300 bodies of quake victims, but no aid, official says

From CNN's Raja Razek

The Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria has received the bodies of more than 300 Syrians who died in the quake in Turkey, a spokesperson said Wednesday. But it has not received any international aid, he said.

"Since Monday, and until now, we have been receiving bodies," Bab al-Hawa spokesperson Mazen Alloush told CNN in a phone call. "The bodies of Syrians, who were in Turkey, have been sent to us from various areas and hospitals."

The bodies were sent back to Syria so the victims can be buried in their home country, he said. 

Alloush expressed frustration and disputed earlier reports that roads had not been clear for aid trucks to enter due to damage from the earthquake, telling CNN, "How are roads OK for cars carrying bodies, but not for aid?" 

A United Nations official told CNN Wednesday that the road leading to the crossing was damaged by Monday’s earthquake, but that it is now accessible.

That official, Muhannad Hadi, who serves as the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Crisis with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said they hope to begin moving aid by Thursday.

When asked about the possibility of receiving aid on Thursday, Alloush said he has received notice that six aid trucks will be entering the border before noon Thursday. 

According to Alloush, the six trucks would be carrying sanitary items and possibly food. 

Earlier Wednesday, Bab al-Hawa released a statement saying, "We, the Bab al-Hawa administration, confirm that at the time of this release, no aid has arrived from any side, international or non-international. Crossing personnel are ready to facilitate entry of any relief convoys, aid groups, or equipment, to help in debris removal and to help our afflicted people."

4:10 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Australia to deploy 72 search and rescue specialists to Turkey

From CNN’s Jessie Gretener

Australia is deploying 72 search and rescue specialists to Turkey following the devastating earthquake, according to the country's Department of Foreign Affairs. 

Steph Cooke, the minister for emergency services and resilience, said 52 of the 72 personnel will be Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighters who have “extensive training in rescue missions," adding that the firefighters were due to depart on Friday.  

Paul Baxter, the FRNSW commissioner, said in a press release that his team will “be able to hit the ground running," and explained that the training they undertake every day in Sydney will serve them well in Turkey.    

The Australian National Emergency Management Agency is working closely with other Australian agencies to “have boots on the ground by the end of the week,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Australia will also deploy personnel from the foreign affairs department, police force as well as ambulance and health workers. 

3:53 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

At least 3 US citizens killed in earthquake in Turkey, State Department says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

At least three US citizens were killed in the earthquake in southeastern Turkey, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

"We offer our sincerest condolences to the victims and to the families of all of those affected," the spokesperson said. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional details at this time."

US officials are working to provide support to victims and their family members.

The spokesperson added that "individuals in need of immediate, local emergency assistance should call Turkish authorities using the phone number 112."

3:30 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Death toll from Turkey-Syria earthquake surpasses 12,000

From CNN's Ruba Alhenawi, Hamdi Alkhshali, Isil Sariyuce and Hande Atay Alam

Rescuers search through the rubble of a collapsed building in Aleppo, Syria on February 8.
Rescuers search through the rubble of a collapsed building in Aleppo, Syria on February 8. (AFP/Getty Images)

The death toll from the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria is now at least 12,049 people, according to authorities.

The total number of deaths in Syria climbs to 2,992, including 1,730 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the White Helmets, a volunteer organization. At least 1,262 deaths are in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media.  

The total number of people killed in Turkey now stands at least 9,057 with 52,979 others reported injured, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The total number of injured people in Syria across all affected territories rose to 5,108, in both rebel and government-held areas.

At least 58,087 people have been injured in both Syria and Turkey, according to figures from the Turkish government, the White Helmets and Syrian state media.

2:19 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

US President Biden offers condolences and support for Syria and Turkey earthquake victims

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden speaks in DeForest, Wisconsin, on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden speaks in DeForest, Wisconsin, on Wednesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden is offering his condolences and support to Turkey and Syria, marking his first on-camera remarks on the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck earlier this week. 

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Turkey and Syria,” Biden said as he spoke to union members in DeForest, Wisconsin, on Wednesday.

“We mourn the loss of so many lives and we offer our deepest condolences,” he said, going on to discuss some of the horrific imagery of parents pulling babies from the rubble and the mounting death toll, and adding that his thoughts are “also with the survivors who have been torn apart by this tragedy.” 

Biden noted that he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and offered “full support,” as well as rescue and recovery teams. 

In Syria, he said the US continues to support humanitarian partners with equipment and assistance for search and rescue missions. The US, he added, is the “leading donor across all the areas of Syria, no matter who controls the territory.”

“It's about saving human life. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting the people of Turkey and Syria in this time in need,” he said.

1:20 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

EU announces donor conference to raise emergency funds for Turkey and Syria 

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy, Sugam Pokharel and Chris Liakos 

The European Union has announced a donor conference to raise funds for Turkey and Syria as the two countries continue to grapple with the devastation caused by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake this week.  

The bloc’s chief, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the conference in a joint statement Wednesday following a call with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.  

The event will be held in March in Brussels, according to the statement.

Von der Leyen, who is the European Commission president, stressed that the bloc’s priority now is to “work around the clock to save as many lives as possible as many people are still trapped under the rubble, in buildings.”  

In a news release earlier on Wednesday, the EU said the current operation is one of the "largest ever search and rescue operations" carried out through its Civil Protection Mechanism.   

So far, the bloc said it has sent 31 search and rescue teams and 5 medical teams from 23 countries to impacted areas in Turkey and Syria.   

Syrian authorities called on the EU to activate its Civil Protection Mechanism on Wednesday morning whereas their Turkish counterparts asked the bloc to trigger the support mechanism on Monday, according to the news release.  

The bloc also committed itself to provide Turkey with 3 million euros (around $3.2 million) in assistance. Separately, Syria will receive 3.5 million euros (around $3.7 million) in emergency aid assistance.   

The EU said the latter funding will help people in Syria “in need to access shelter, water and sanitation, health various items they currently need, as well as to support the search and rescue operations.”  


2:01 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

US military transporting first responder teams to earthquake-impacted areas in Turkey

From CNN's Haley Britzky and Michael Conte

The United States military has transported two civilian urban search and rescue teams to Turkey to assist in earthquake relief efforts, according to the US Defense Department, as well as transporting first responders to and from the most impacted areas.

“The Department of Defense has responded to the government of Turkey’s requests for earthquake relief support and will continue to provide support as requested by the Turkish government,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a news conference Wednesday.

The first US rescue teams have arrived, while a team from Europe will be arriving tomorrow, according to Ryder.

The US European Command “is actively working to preposition additional assets to support the relief efforts and respond to any new requests from the Turkish Government,” Ryder said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US has sent “more than 150 search and rescue personnel” to Turkey to aid in earthquake recovery efforts.

In Syria, Blinken said the US has “NGO partners that we funded over the years” providing assistance.

“Across both countries, we've deployed experienced emergency managers, hazardous materials technicians, engineers, logisticians, paramedics, planners, others, along with about 170,000 pounds of specialized tools and equipment,” said Blinken at a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Blinken also said the US would have “more to say” about how the administration would support both countries’ recovery efforts.

1:23 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Syria and Turkey at risk of "secondary health crisis," WHO says

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Civilians and rescue volunteers search through debris to find victims on February 8 in Elbistan, Turkey.
Civilians and rescue volunteers search through debris to find victims on February 8 in Elbistan, Turkey. (Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images)

The World Health Organization said it is scaling up its response in Syria and Turkey because diseases already present — particularly in Syria — will be amplified, including cholera and respiratory illnesses.

“There is a secondary health crisis emerging in the aftermath as underlying health risks will likely be exacerbated. I’m speaking about — and especially in the case of Syria — diarrheal diseases including cholera, respiratory illnesses, leishmaniasis, physical and mental trauma and disability, secondary wound infection etc. and the worsening of chronic conditions, noncommunicable diseases, due to the disruptions of continuity of care and the capacity to treat ongoing regular health issues and as I’ve seen myself, these capacities have been gravely affected due to the longstanding pre-existing complex crisis,” WHO Senior Emergency Officer Dr. Adelheid Marschang said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Robert Holden, WHO incident manager for the earthquake response, said the emphasis in Turkey and Syria is to ensure “those that survived the initial disaster continue to survive going forward.”

“We have got a ... huge-scale disaster unfolding on us with large geographical spread. We’ve got a lot of people who have survived now out in the open and in worsening and horrific conditions. We’ve got major disruption to basic water supplies; we’ve got major disruption to fuel, electricity supplies, communication supplies, the basics of life. We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don’t move with the same pace and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue side,” he said.

“We’ve got to ensure that people have the basic elements to survive this next period,” he added.

2:02 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

WHO deploying medical teams and 3 flights of supplies to Turkey and Syria in "race against time"

From CNN’s Carma Hassan 

A World Health Organization employee prepares humanitarian aid to be sent to Turkey and Syria in Dubai on Tuesday.
A World Health Organization employee prepares humanitarian aid to be sent to Turkey and Syria in Dubai on Tuesday. (Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

The World Health Organization is sending medical teams and three flights of medical supplies, including surgical trauma kits, to Turkey and Syria following the devastating earthquake this week.

A “high-level delegation” is also on the way to the region to help coordinate WHO’s response, it said.  

The agency is sending $3 million to help support the emergency response and is “working with partners to provide specialized medical care,” according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“With the weather conditions and ongoing aftershocks, we are in a race against time to save lives. People need shelter, food, clean water and medical care for injuries resulting from the earthquake, but also for other health needs,” Tedros said at a news conference on Wednesday.

One flight is already en route to Istanbul, while another flight to Damascus is preparing to leave. A third flight to Damascus is being planned, according to Tedros.

Dr. Iman Shankiti, the WHO representative to Syria, said the numbers of deaths and injuries are rising by the hour. 

“We continue to be very concerned about areas which are inaccessible because of the earthquake, which has destroyed some of the areas which are used for transportation,” Shankiti said. 

The health system in Syria is also in dire shape, she said, with some hospitals inaccessible due to the quake.

“The health needs are tremendous. I mean, it’s important to note that the health system has suffered for the last 12 years and continue to suffer and continue to be strained by the ongoing emergencies and the last one is this earthquake,” she said. 

Search-and-rescue efforts are the main priority in Syria right now, followed by access to shelter, food and water, according to Shankiti. 

WHO Turkey representative Dr. Batyr Berdyklychev said numerous aftershocks are posing “a lot of challenges for the search and rescue operations.” 

“The main challenges at the moment, it’s continuing aftershocks, bad weather – sub-zero during the nighttime – also damaged roads which hinders access to the affected territories and areas,” Berdyklychev said. “Also, the challenges for search and rescue due to the magnitude of the event and number of affected cities and provinces. Also, trauma care and mental health and psychological support.”