Footballers among survivors of massive Turkiye quake

ANKARA, 7 Feb 2023:

Hatayspor and Ghana midfielder Christian Atsu has been pulled alive from the wreckage of a building that collapsed following the powerful earthquake that killed thousands of people in southeast Turkiye and parts of northern Syria early yesterday.

Hatayspor’s sporting director Taner Savut remains missing in the rubble of a collapsed building, said a spokesperson for the club based in Antakya, which suffered severe damage from Monday’s two huge tremors, one of magnitude-7.7 and a later one of M7.6, as well as numerous aftershocks.

Ghana’s football association said today it had been informed that former Chelsea, Newcastle and Malaga player Atsu, 31, had been “successfully rescued from the rubble of the collapsed building and is receiving treatment.”

“Let’s continue to pray for Christian,” it added in a social media post.

Antakya is located in Hatay province, Turkiye’s southernmost region.

Over 5,000 people in Turkiye and northern Syria have been confirmed dead since the powerful quakes hit the region – according to figures from the Turkish government, the Syrian government and organisations in opposition-held Syrian territory.

A further 20,500 were injured by the natural disaster while search and rescue efforts are ongoing as many are feared trapped under the rubble.

Desperate searches for survivors continued in freezing temperatures today, with casualties expected to rise significantly.

More than 7,800 people in Turkey have been pulled out alive from the rubble of some 5,700 buildings that collapsed in yesterday’s two huge tremors, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

A 30-year-old man was rescued alive this morning from the rubble of a building, nearly 30 hours after the tremors began, while a mother and her three children were also found alive after 28 hours.

About 25,000 people, including soldiers, are taking part in the rescue efforts, said Turkiye’s national emergency agency (AFAD).

The vice-presidency indicated more than 300,000 displaced people have been housed in university centres, shelters and student residences.

Residents of the affected areas, where 15 million people live, have been told not to enter their homes, and the government has allocated about US$13 million in urgent funds for the 10 most affected provinces.

The seriously injured are being transported by plane to medical centres in Istanbul and Ankara, and boats are also evacuating victims from the port of Iskenderún, southeast of the epicentres.

Many countries have already began sending hundreds of rescuers and experts to search for survivors. However freezing temperatures and snowfall in the region, where there are also mountainous territories that are difficult to access, complicate rescue operations.

Local authorities have reported cuts to gas and electricity supplies in some areas and the state oil company has cut supplies to the region as a precautionary measure.

Across the border in Syria, the administration of president Bashar al-Assad reported 812 deaths and 1,449 people injured in government-controlled areas, according to state news agency SANA early Tuesday.

In the northwestern province of Idlib, the last opposition stronghold, and in other parts of neighbouring Aleppo, outside the control of Damascus, at least 790 people have been killed and some 2,200 injured, according to the White Helmets civilian rescue group.

“The death toll is expected to dramatically rise as hundreds remain trapped under rubble,” it tweeted.

“Time is running out (…) Every second could mean saving a life. We appeal to all humanitarian organisations and international bodies to provide material support and assistance to organisations responding to this disaster.”

Syria’s UN envoy Bassam Sabbagh met with UN secretary general António Guterres yesterday and appealed for international help.

Asked if aid donated to Syria would reach areas not controlled by the government, he reportedly said: “We assure the UN that we are ready to help and to coordinate to provide assistance to all Syrians in all territory of Syria.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) yesterday said 4.1 million people live in opposition-controlled areas of Syria that were pummelled by the quakes and “who rely on humanitarian assistance, the majority, women and children”.

“UN and partners are monitoring the situation on the ground amidst information flow constraints due to chronic telecommunication disruptions and power shortages,” the OCHA added.

“Infrastructural damages are difficult to assess at this time and roads have been reportedly blocked in both Turkey and northwest Syria.”

Two planes from Iraq and one from Iran loaded with emergency supplies have now arrived in Damascus, SANA said today.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a total of 45 nations have offered help. He declared seven days of national mourning.

At 4.17am local time yesterday, a first earthquake of magnitude-7.7 struck west of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, capital of the province of the same name, the AFAD said.

That was followed by a series of aftershocks and then a similarly huge temblor in the early afternoon, which struck about 80km north of the first in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras province and measured M7.6, it added.

Subsequently, at least 243 aftershocks have occurred to this morning, some larger than M6.