Turkey-Syria earthquake search operations underway, toll exceeds 21K
The first United Nations aid deliveries arrived on Thursday in areas controlled by militants in Syria.
Rescuers were scouring debris on Friday nearly 100 hours after the 7.8-magnitude massive earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 21,000 people in one of the region's worst disasters for a century.
The first United Nations aid deliveries arrived on Thursday in areas controlled by militants in Syria, but chances of finding survivors have dimmed since the passing of the three-day mark that experts consider a critical period to save lives.
Top aid officials were planning to visit affected areas with World Health Organization Head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths both announcing trips.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, said she had arrived in Aleppo.
"Communities struggling after years of fierce fighting are now crippled by the earthquake," Spoljaric tweeted on Wednesday.
"As this tragic event unfolds, people's desperate plight must be addressed," she stressed.
On his part, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to authorize the opening of new cross-border humanitarian aid points between Turkey and Syria.
"This is the moment of unity, it's not a moment to politicise or to divide but it is obvious that we need massive support," Guterres said.
Similarly, Geir Pedersen, the UN Special Envoy for Syria stressed on Thursday the need to avoid "politicization" of aid to earthquake victims in Syria and urged Washington and Brussels to ensure there were "no impediments".
Read more: Top EU officials demand lifting of sanctions on Syria 'immediately'
Exclusive: Syrian government sending aid to armed-groups-held areas
In the same context, Syrian informed sources told Al Mayadeen on Thursday that a convoy carrying Syrian aid is preparing to enter Idlib through the Saraqib border crossing and is currently waiting for UN representatives to hand over the relief aid to Idlib.
The sources said that if international organizations are late, Syria will not hesitate to deliver this aid by itself to help the disaster-stricken people.
"The negotiations were fruitful, and aid is on the way," they added.
According to Al Mayadeen sources, the UAE had been negotiating for the past three days with militants in Idlib to open the crossings to allow the entry of aid.
"The militats were finally convinced with an aid convoy making it into Idlib through the Syrian Red Crescent and international organizations in Syria," the sources added.
"The militants want to garner international support for themselves alone under the pretext that the Syrian government would not allow aid to make it into their areas," the sources indicated.
Al Mayadeen correspondent also reported that "there is an aid convoy preparing to enter Idlib."
"The aid convoy will make it through the UN path through the Saraqib crossing," and "the efforts of the militants to get aid into Idlib through the Turkish borders have all been met with failure."
In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, located near the epicenter of the quake, temperatures plunged to minus three degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit) early on Friday.
Despite the cold, thousands of families had to spend the night in cars and makeshift tents -- too scared or banned from returning to their homes.
Gyms, mosques, schools, and some stores have opened at night. But beds are scarce and thousands spend the nights in cars with engines running to provide heat.
Monday's quake was the largest Turkey has seen since 1939 when 33,000 people died in the eastern Erzincan province.
In addition to 3,377 deaths in Syria, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey has reached 18,342, while 74,242 have been injured, bringing the confirmed total to more than 21,000 deaths.
Experts fear the number will continue to rise sharply. Despite the difficulties, thousands of local and foreign searchers have not given up the hunt for more survivors.
On a visit to the area, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted there had been "shortcomings" in the government's handling of the disaster.
Read more: Post-earthquake reconstruction in Syria, Turkey may take 10 years
The World Bank said it would give $1.78 billion in aid to Turkey to help with relief and recovery efforts. Immediate assistance of $780 million will be offered from two existing projects in Turkey, said the bank, while an added $1 billion in operations is being prepared to support affected people.
In Syria, the General Director of the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), Basem Mansour, revealed that the countries that have started sending aid planes so far are: UAE, Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan, Armenia, Algeria, Iraq, Oman, Egypt, Venezuela, Jordan, Libya, and Tunisia.
More than 30 flights have arrived in Syria over the past three days, Mansour highlighted.
In addition to a staggering human toll, the quake's economic cost appears likely to exceed $2 billion and could reach $4 billion or more, Fitch Ratings said.
Amid complete silence from the #West, some countries actually stepped up and answered Syria's humanitarian cry for help.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) February 8, 2023
Here are the countries that aided #Syria in a time of disaster.#SyriaEarthquake #StopSanctionsOnSyria pic.twitter.com/jkcDMbslg0
Earlier, the US Treasury Department announced a temporary lifting of some Syria-related sanctions following calls from the Syrian state and the international community in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude that struck Syria and Turkey.
Read more: Following calls, US temporarily lifts some Syria-related sanctions