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 12:02 AM ET, Thu February 9, 2023
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6:39 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

2 women found alive in Turkey after 62 hours under rubble, officials say

From CNN’s Talia Kayli and Philip Wang

Fatma Demir is seen talking with rescuers after being pulled from the collapsed building.
Fatma Demir is seen talking with rescuers after being pulled from the collapsed building. (Gaziantep Governor’s Office)

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.

5:17 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Getting international aid to Syria is complicated. Here's why

From CNN's Raja Razek

Displaced Syrians take shelter on the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Jindayris on February 8.
Displaced Syrians take shelter on the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Jindayris on February 8. (Bakr Alkasem/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

5:59 p.m. ET, February 8, 2023

"There are not enough people to help." One Israeli medic describes devastation on the ground in Turkey

From CNN's Hadas Gold

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.

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.”