Turkey receives offers of quake aid from nearly 100 countries
From CNN's Hande Atay Alam
Some 95 nations and 16 international organizations have pledged aid to Turkey following this week's devastating earthquake, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.
At the moment, 6,479 rescue personnel from 56 countries are in the field, Cavusoglu added during a news conference in the capital of Ankara.
"Teams from 19 more countries will be in our country within 24 hours," he commented.
Some context: Global aid has poured into Turkey following Monday's disaster, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 17,000 people and injured tens of thousands more in the country and neighboring Syria.
The situation is more complex in Syria. Earlier today, a United Nations aid convoy crossed from Turkey into northwest Syria for the first time since the quake, as the race to get international help into the country is hampered by a years-long political conflict and an acute humanitarian crisis.
8:29 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Firefighters battle blaze at Turkey's Iskenderun port
From CNN's Jomana Karadsheh in Iskenderun, Turkey
Firefighters are working to extinguish a fire at Turkey's Iskenderun port, according to a CNN team on the ground Thursday.
Heavy smoke continues to rise from the port as firefighters and at least two firefighting aircraft attempt to put out the flames.
The southern Turkish port remained closed following heavy damage from Monday’s earthquake and the subsequent fire which broke out among containers at the terminal.
Turkey's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said Wednesday that efforts fight the blaze were ongoing.
"Our teams are working continuously at the Iskenderun Port to cool down the fire from air and land," the ministry tweeted.
7:27 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Temperatures forecast to remain below normal for Turkey’s earthquake zone through the weekend
From CNN's Monica Garrett
Some of the coldest temperatures felt since the earthquake struck southern Turkey occurred Thursday morning, as a freezing weather blast envelopes disaster-stricken regions while rescue workers in Turkey and Syria search for survivors.
Low temperatures ranged in provinces from -2°C or degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit) in Kilis, to -4°C in Gaziantep, to -6°C in Malatya Thursday morning. Temperatures have since warmed above freezing with the heating of the sun during the day, but will remain around 5°C below average for this time of year.
People in the area devastated by this week’s earthquake will continue to feel below normal temperatures over the next several days. Temperatures will consistently dip below freezing in the overnight hours and warm above freezing during the day, with the exception of northern areas in higher elevations.
Mostly clear skies will allow for the sun to warm the area during the day, but it will also allow for faster cooling at night, as cloud cover acts as a blanket to trap heat from escaping the atmosphere.
Forecast temperatures through the weekend:
Elbistan: Highs just below freezing, lows around -14°C (7°F)
Malatya: Highs near freezing, lows around -10°C
Kahramanmaras: Highs 5°C to 7°C, lows -4°C to -2°C
Gaziantep: Highs 6°C to 8°C, lows -3°C to -2°C
Kilis: Highs 7°C to 9°C, lows at or just below freezing
Hatay: Highs around 10°C, lows at or just below freezing
This cooler than normal spell in February comes on the heels of what has been a warm winter for the region. Turkey just saw its warmest December on record and fourth warmest January on record.
Northern Syria is facing similar colder than normal conditions like Turkey. The city of Aleppo is forecast to have highs around 10°C and lows of -3°C to -2°C through this weekend. Aleppo averages highs of 12.5°C and lows of 2.5°C in February.
8:13 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
The first UN aid convoy since the earthquake has now crossed into Syria
From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi
A United Nations aid convoy crossed from Turkey into northwest Syria Thursday for the first time since Monday's earthquake in the race to get international help into a region beset by years of conflict and an acute humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said the convoy, made up of six trucks carrying shelter items and Non Food Items (NFI), crossed through the Bab Al Hawa crossing – the only humanitarian aid corridor between Turkey and Syria.
“The UN cross-border aid operation has been reinstated today. We are relieved that we are able to reach the people in northwest Syria in this pressing time. We hope that this operation continues as this is a humanitarian lifeline and the only scalable channel,” Sanjana Quazi, head of OCHA Türkiye said.
Some 4.1 million people already depend on humanitarian aid in mostly rebel-held northwest Syria.
A top aid official told CNN earlier that efforts to help people in quake-stricken regions of Syria have been "incredibly difficult," because passage entries along the border were destroyed due to the disaster.
"On top of that, in Syria, this happens in the middle of a conflict zone,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
CNN's Mayumi Maruyama and Alex Stambaugh contributed reporting.
7:01 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Almost 30,000 people have been evacuated from near quake epicenter in Turkey
From CNN's Isil Sariyuce
At least 28,044 people have been evacuated out of Kahramanmaras, the southern Turkish province near the epicenter of Monday's deadly earthquake.
As of Thursday at 11:38am local time, at least 23,437 people have been evacuated by air and 4,607 by road and rail, according to Turkey's disaster management agency, AFAD.
The agency released an advisory Thursday with information on evacuation centers for those who wish to leave the province, adding that accommodations and guest houses are being coordinated by AFAD and province officials.
Some context: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted to his government's "shortcomings" amid growing discontent over the state's response to this week's disaster, as questions emerge over its preparedness in a country familiar with earthquakes.
Turkey is located over several tectonic plates, although disasters like Monday are not common. But members of the public expressed anger after reports surfaced of entire towns in the country's north flattened by the powerful tremors.
Recent estimates from the World Health Organization said up to 23 million people could be affected by the disaster.
Aid agencies have also warned the toll of at least 17,000 across both countries is likely to rise significantly higher, especially in Syria, as search and rescue teams trawl through the debris of fallen buildings amid a cold winter blast in the region.
6:44 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Aid chief describes how "incredibly difficult" it is getting aid to Syria
From CNN's Mayumi Maruyama and Alex Stambaugh
A top aid official told CNN that efforts to help people in quake-stricken regions of Syria have been "incredibly difficult," as Monday's deadly disaster compounded years of conflict and an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
“When we needed passable roads, bridges, airports, passage points across border lines the most, they were gone because of the earthquake,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
On top of that, in Syria, this happens in the middle of a conflict zone."
Egeland said one of the main issues has been the limited number of border crossings from Turkey into Syria, including the main point which he says has been restricted due to United Nations Security Council sanctions.
"On both sides of this bitter conflict, there has been opposition to cross line(s to provide) frontline aid. I hope all of those political ideas that we have to make it difficult for the other side will be gone now. They all have one common enemy which is this earthquake and the children on both sides should have the relief they need,” he said.
Egeland told CNN he hopes there will be a lifting of restrictions -- either a "peace agreement" or "reconciliation" -- to open borders and allow aid to pass into Syria.
He said it will take "at least" 10 years to rebuild, emphasizing the importance of children having schools, homes, waterworks and electricity restored.
7:54 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Almost 11 million people in Syria impacted, as fresh snowfall worsens deteriorating situation
From CNN’s Mostafa Salem and Celine Alkhaldi
A top UN official has said that 10.9 million people have been affected by the disaster in Syria, as new snowfall compounded the humanitarian crisis further.
The number of people who were in need of assistance in the region before the earthquake stood at 15.3 million – but that will now have to be revised, the UN resident coordinator for Syria, El-Mostafa Benlamlih, told a briefing Wednesday.
In the ancient city of Aleppo alone, 100,000 people are believed to be homeless, with 30,000 currently sheltered in schools and mosques.
“Those are the lucky ones,” he said. The remaining 70,000 “have snow, they have cold and they are living in a terrible situation,” he added.
An aid worker distributing supplies across cities in northern Syria told CNN that homeless people have been sleeping in their cars amid a “very, very difficult,” situation.
“Those who are still alive under the rubble might die from the cold weather,” Dr. Mostafa Edo, the country director for MedGlobal, said Thursday.
The assistance in Syria is “nowhere near enough” as the UN called for “urgent” lifesaving aid, the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen said.
In rebel-held territories of northwest Syria, desperately needed help is expected to arrive from Turkish territory through a border crossing Thursday.
“We were assured that we will be able to get through the first assistance today, and then there will be more assistance coming,” Pedersen said.
Some context: The Syrian regime is shunned by most Western countries, after a deadly campaign led by President Bashar al-Assad to quell the country's peaceful uprising in 2011 exploded into a civil war, and led to an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
While Turkey has received help from dozens of countries, the aid situation in Syria is less clear as Assad has used the opportunity to call for sanctions against his regime to be lifted.
Syrian victims of the devastating quake may now become hostages of the politics that have divided the country for over a decades, analysts warned CNN.
CNN's Nadeen Ebrahim and Dalya Al Masri contributed reporting.
5:21 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Some of those who lived through the quake now face a struggle to survive the aftermath, WHO warns
From CNN's Duarte Mendonça
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday stressed the urgency of humanitarian organizations making sure people who survived the earthquake "continue to survive” now.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, the WHO's incident response manager Robert Holden warned there were “a lot of people” surviving “out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions."
We’ve got major disruptions to basic water supplies, we’ve got major disruption to fuel, electricity supplies, communication supplies, the basics of life,” Holden said.
“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,” Holden added.
Holden went on to emphasize the importance of ensuring that people had “the basic elements to survive the next period.”
”This is no easy task by any stretch of the imagination," Holden said, adding the "scale of the operation is massive."
"There's a sense of purpose and a sense of focus. And that focus isn't just about search and rescue, that focus is about ensuring people continue to survive and have what they need to be able to do so," Holden concluded.