Our live coverage of the quake and rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria has moved here.
Access to Twitter in Turkey is being restored after users reported being unable to access the social media site following Monday's deadly earthquake, according to network monitoring firm NetBlocks.
“The restoration comes after authorities held a meeting with Twitter to ‘remind Twitter of its obligations’ on content takedowns and disinformation, ” NetBlocks tweeted.
Earlier Wednesday, NetBlocks, journalists and academics reported that access to Twitter had been restricted in the country. Some Twitter users appealed to Twitter CEO Elon Musk for help, tagging his Twitter handle in an apparent effort to get his attention.
In a tweet Wednesday, Musk said the Turkish government had told him that authorities would stop blocking the social media platform.
NetBlocks said traffic filtering had been applied at the internet service provider level that was preventing Twitter users from reaching the site.
Its report coincided with user claims that Twitter was inaccessible in the country, and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began a tour of the quake-hit region.
The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday has climbed to more than 15,000 people, mostly due to a jump in the number for Turkey. The toll for Syria remains relatively static – although aid agencies have warned that the number will likely be much higher.
The World Health Organization estimates up to 23 million people could be affected by the earthquake across both countries.
Search and rescue efforts are still underway, bolstered by aid groups and countries that have rushed teams to the worst-hit areas, but they are battling grim conditions with thousands of collapsed buildings and freezing temperatures.
Here are the latest developments:
Aid efforts: The World Health Organization said it's scaling up its response in Syria and Turkey because diseases already present — particularly in Syria — will be amplified in wake of the earthquake's aftermath. The organization is sending medical teams and three flights of medical supplies, including surgical trauma kits to Turkey and Syria. The US military sent two civilian urban search and rescue teams to Turkey to help with relief efforts, according to the US Defense Department. The European Union has announced a donor conference to raise funds for Turkey and Syria. Australia is deploying 72 search and rescue specialists to Turkey, according to the country's Department of Foreign Affairs. The Syrian government says it has set up more than 100 shelters equipped with aid supplies for those affected by the earthquake across government-controlled areas.
Tough conditions: Extreme winter weather is impacting rescue efforts. Aftershocks are also a potential hazard — at least 125 measuring 4.0 or greater have occurred since the 7.8 magnitude quake struck southern Turkey on Monday, according to the US Geological Survey. Though their frequency and magnitude are decreasing, 5.0 to 6.0+ aftershocks are still possible and bring a risk of additional damage to compromised structures and a continued threat to rescue teams and survivors.
Complications in Syria: While Turkey has received an outpouring of support and aid from dozens of countries after the earthquake, outreach to Syria has been less enthusiastic, and analysts warn that Syrian victims may become hostages of the politics that have divided Syria for over a decade. In wake of the earthquake, Syria's government has ramped up its calls for the removal of economic US and EU sanctions. The measures were imposed on Syria to pressure the regime into a political process that could put an end to the ongoing civil conflict. Some of the areas most impacted by the earthquake are controlled by the President Bashar al-Assad's government, others by Turkish-backed and US-backed opposition forces, Kurdish rebels and Sunni Islamist fighters.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted to “shortcomings” amid growing anger over the state’s response to the massive quake.
- Trading on Istanbul’s stock exchange was halted Wednesday after the main index dropped 7% in early dealing, according to Turkey’s Central Securities Depository.
- Access to Twitter, which had been restricted in Turkey, will soon be restored, according to Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
- The road leading to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria is accessible after it was damaged by the quake, according to a UN official. But a spokesperson for the crossing said it has not seen any international aid as of Wednesday. Instead, the crossing received the dead bodies of more than 300 Syrians who died in Turkey, the spokesperson said.
- At least three US citizens were killed in the quake in southeastern Turkey, a State Department spokesperson said.
- There have been some dramatic rescues, including that of two sisters who had spent 62 hours under the rubble of their collapsed building in Gaziantep, Turkey.
The Turkish government has informed Twitter CEO Elon Musk that authorities will stop blocking the social media platform shortly, Musk tweeted Wednesday night.
Earlier Wednesday, an internet monitoring company as well as journalists and academics reported that access to Twitter had been restricted in Turkey.
Some Twitter users made appeals to Musk for help, tagging his Twitter handle in an apparent effort to get his attention.
The death toll following the catastrophic earthquake that shook Turkey and Syria on Monday has risen to at least 15,383, according to authorities.
The death toll in Turkey surged by more than 3,000 in a matter of hours and is now at 12,391, according to Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency on Thursday.
The total number of deaths in Syria is at least 2,992, including 1,730 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the "White Helmets" civil defense group, as well as an additional 1,262 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media.
Fatma Demir and her sister Merve were rescued Wednesday in Turkey after they spent 62 hours under a collapsed building, according to the Gaziantep Governor’s Office.
Fatma Demir, 25, told the rescuer that when the earthquake happened, her relative Husra was next to her.
“When the quake hit, a concrete slab fell on top of me. I fell down to the floor,” Demir said, adding that she tried to touch Husra a couple of times, but could not reach her.
Search and rescue teams in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep continue to look for any people buried under the rubble.
Seventy countries and 14 international organizations have offered Turkey relief following the earthquake, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday, including the United States, United Kingdom, the UAE, Israel and Russia.
The international aid situation in Syria is less clear.
Syria is ruled by a myriad of disparate groups. Some of the areas of Syria most impacted by the earthquake are controlled by the President Bashar al-Assad's government, others by Turkish-backed and US-backed opposition forces, Kurdish rebels and Sunni Islamist fighters. Idlib, one of Syria's last opposition strongholds, is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an armed Sunni Islamist group.
The Assad government, internationally sidelined and heavily sanctioned due to its brutal suppression of an uprising that started in 2011, counts Iran and Russia as its closest allies – both global pariahs.
The regime insists all aid to the country, including aid meant for areas outside its control, be directed to the capital Damascus.
That hasn't been received well by activists and observers who fear the regime could hamper timely aid to thousands of quake victims in rebel-held areas, most of whom are women and children, according to the UN.
So far, the UAE, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Algeria and India have sent relief directly to regime-controlled airports. Others such as Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, China, Canada and the Vatican have pledged aid, though it is unclear if that relief will be sent directly to the regime.
Earlier Wednesday, the Syrian government said it has set up more than a hundred shelters equipped with aid supplies for those affected by the earthquake across government-controlled areas, including in the cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Tartus and Latakia, a coastal city which has the highest number of earthquake deaths counted in Syria so far, and over 100 collapsed buildings.
Israeli medic Linor Attias' team had just rescued a 15-year-old girl from the rubble in Kahramanmaraş, a city in Turkey, and while there were tears of joy — there was no time to process or celebrate.
There's just too much devastation.
Speaking by phone with the sounds of rescue operations and ambulances in the background, Attias said, "There is not enough people to assist in this kind of situation — I'm talking even just about only one city, but the damage is so horrible all over southern Turkey so there is not enough missions here." Attias is working with the volunteer-based emergency medical organization, United Hatzalah.
Even those that have arrived to help are having trouble reaching those in the need. When Attias' team arrived at the Gaziantep airport, she said there weren't enough trucks or fuel to transport the teams and humanitarian aid to the areas that needed it most.
"They chose to take us because we are medics and the rescue delegation," she said.
Beyond the immediate need of rescuing any survivors, the humanitarian situation is dire, she said. Everywhere they look, there are collapsed buildings and more collapsing "every second."
"People are screaming, people are suffering, kids without their parents. The smell is horrible. They're lighting fires with mattress so there is toxic fumes in the air right now," she said.
People immediately need shelter, blankets, clothes, shoes and food — but most of all they need water and electricity.
Attias' team is sleeping out in the open in sleeping bags for safety reasons. Many of the buildings are not stable and the area's been hit with dozens of aftershocks.
"We felt an earthquake yesterday, while we were sleeping. We woke up from the earthquake so we felt safe that we are in an open field and not near to buildings. This is a survival situation," Attias said.
Attias said that in order for her to function well as a rescuer, she has to think of the situation in a "logical way."
"Because if I put my emotions into it, I will not survive because it so difficult to witness," she said.
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."