18th May 2024
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Spain joins search & rescue teams, as earthquake death toll rises in Turkey & Syria

Spain, among many other countries, is sending two urban search and rescue teams to Turkey with 85 personnel, and a contingent of volunteer firefighters. It follows the powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria early on Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing, at the latest estimate [updated to Sunday 12 Feb], more than 33,000 people.

Thousands are believed to still be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

‘My solidarity with Turkey and Syria in the face of one of the biggest earthquakes in their history,’ tweeted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. ‘Following the request of the European Civil Protection Mechanism, the government has activated civil protection personnel and emergency military units on urgent air transport to support such tasks.’

The earthquake, which was centred on Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo and Beirut.

The earthquake has piled more misery on a region that has seen tremendous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the area affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999

The European Union has mobilised search and rescue teams to help Turkey, while the 27-nation bloc’s Copernicus satellite system has been activated to provide emergency mapping services. At least 13 member countries have offered assistance. The EU said it is also ready to offer help to Syria through its humanitarian assistance programmes.

The United States is coordinating immediate assistance to Turkey, including teams to support search and rescue efforts. US-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.

The Associated Press has reported that Russian rescue teams from the Emergencies Ministry are preparing to fly to Syria, where Russian military deployed in that country already has sent 10 units comprising 300 people to help clear debris and search for survivors. The Russian military has set up points to distribute humanitarian assistance. Russia also has offered help to Turkey, which has been accepted.

The UK is sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists with equipment and dogs, as well as an emergency medical team, to Turkey. The UK. also says it’s in contact with the UN about getting support to victims in Syria.

 

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