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China lodges complaint after Biden says U.S. would defend Taiwan

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2022)

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday that China has lodged “stern representations” with the United States, after U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

China reserves the right to take all necessary measures in response to activities that split the nation apart, said Mao Ning, spokesperson at the foreign ministry, at a regular media briefing, Reuters reported.

“We are willing to do our best to strive for peaceful reunification. At the same time, we will not tolerate any activities aimed at secession,” Mao said.

She also urged the U.S. to handle Taiwan-related issues “carefully and properly”, and not send “wrong signals” to Taiwan independence separatist forces, warning the United States not to seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations and the peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is part of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government of China,” said Mao.

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Countries worldwide mobilize to help Turkey and Syria

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

Countries around the world are rushing to send rescue workers, equipment and aid after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria early Monday.

The initial earthquake was followed by a series of well over 50 aftershocks all measuring over 4.0 magnitude. An additional, 7.7 quake also struck central Turkey later Monday.

In a statement on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden said that U.S. “teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake.”

Biden spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to offer condolences and said the United States will send “any and all” aid needed to help recovery, the White House said in a statement.

John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said the United States is deploying two 79-person urban search and rescue teams and that the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, are coordinating with their Turkish counterparts on additional assistance.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, to “pick up the phone and let us know” what the United States can do to help, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

The European Union said it mobilized rescue teams with crews from countries including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania dispatched to the region. At least 13 member countries have offered assistance, VOA reported.

“Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones and the brave first responders working to save lives,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said in a joint statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said their governments were ready to help those affected by the earthquake.

Britain said it was sending a team of 76 search-and-rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.

“Greece is mobilizing its resources and will assist immediately,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said search and rescue teams, as well as medical aid, would be going to Turkey in response to a request from the Turkish government.

Israel also said it had received a request for humanitarian aid for Syria through a diplomatic official and would send assistance. The two historical adversaries have no diplomatic relations.

Russia also said it had rescue teams preparing to go to Turkey and Syria to help earthquake victims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad and Turkey’s Erdogan to express his condolences over the death and destruction caused by the earthquake.

India also sent in its first of two C17 flights with more than 50 search and rescue personnel, specially trained dog squads, drilling machines, relief material, medicines and other necessary utilities and equipment, the Indian foreign ministry said Tuesday. This flight has already landed in Turkey.

In addition, Iraq said it would send civil defense teams to Turkey and Syria with relief supplies, including food and fuel, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered his government’s support as well.

“I am shocked to learn of deaths and injuries of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “We send our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. At this time, we stand by the friendly Turkish people and are ready to provide the necessary assistance.”

Japan, another country often plagued by earthquakes, said it is sending a group of about 75 rescue workers to Turkey, VOA reported.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg expressed “full solidarity” with alliance member Turkey and said, “NATO allies are mobilizing support now.”

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Huge earthquake kills 2,400 in Turkey and Syria, bad weather worsens plight

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

A huge earthquake killed more than 2,400 people across a swathe of Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday, with freezing winter weather adding to the plight of the many thousands left injured or homeless and hampering efforts to find survivors.

The magnitude 7.8 quake brought down whole apartment blocks in Turkish cities and piled more devastation on millions of Syrians displaced by years of war.

The worst tremor to strike Turkey this century, it came before sunrise in harsh weather and was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake of magnitude 7.7.

“It was like the apocalypse,” said Abdul Salam al-Mahmoud, a Syrian in the northern town of Atareb. “It’s bitterly cold and there’s heavy rain, and people need saving.”

The second quake was big enough to bring down more buildings and, like the first, was felt across the region, endangering rescuers struggling to pull casualties from the rubble, Reuters reported.

In Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey, a woman speaking next to the wreckage of the seven-storey block where she lived said: “We were shaken like a cradle. There were nine of us at home. Two sons of mine are still in the rubble, I’m waiting for them.”

She was nursing a broken arm and had injuries to her face.

The earthquake was the biggest quake recorded worldwide by the U.S. Geological survey since a tremor in the remote South Atlantic in August 2021.

In Turkey, the death toll stood at 1,541, Vice President Fuat Oktay said. At least 928 people were killed in Syria, according to figures from the Damascus government and rescue workers in the northwestern region controlled by insurgents.

Poor internet connections and damaged roads between some of the worst-hit cities in Turkey’s south, homes to millions of people, hindered efforts to assess and address the impact.

Temperatures in some areas were expected to fall to near freezing overnight, worsening conditions for people trapped under rubble or left homeless. Rain was falling on Monday after snowstorms swept the country at the weekend, Reuters reported.

It is already the highest death toll from an earthquake in Turkey since 1999, when a tremor of similar magnitude devastated the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who is preparing for a tough election in May, called it a historic disaster and the worst earthquake to hit Turkey since 1939, but said authorities were doing all they could.

“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts although the winter season, cold weather and the earthquake happening during the night makes things more difficult,” he said.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT showed a building collapse in the southern province of Adana after the second quake. It was not immediately clear if it was evacuated.

In Syria, already wrecked by more than 11 years of civil war, the health ministry said 538 people had been killed and more than 1,326 injured. In the Syrian rebel-held northwest, emergency workers said 390 people had died.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said the earthquake would only add to the suffering of millions of Syrians already enduring a humanitarian crisis due to the civil war.

In the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, Reuters journalists saw dozens of rescue workers searching through a mound of debris, all that was left of a big building, and hauling off bits of wreckage as they looked for survivors. Occasionally they raised their hands and called for quiet, listening for sounds of life.

Men carried a girl wrapped in blankets from a collapsed building in the city. In Izmir, drone footage showed rescue workers stood atop a hill of rubble where a building once stood, working to lift slabs of masonry.

Footage circulated on Twitter showed two neighbouring buildings collapsing one after the other in Syria’s Aleppo, filling the street with billowing dust.

Two residents of the city, which has been heavily damaged in the war, said the buildings had fallen in the hours after the quake, which was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon.

In the Syrian rebel-held town of Jandaris in Aleppo province, a mound of concrete, steel rods and bundles of clothes lay where a multi-storey building once stood.

“There were 12 families under there. Not a single one came out. Not one,” said a thin young man, his eyes wide open in shock and his hand bandaged.

Raed al-Saleh of the Syrian White Helmets, a rescue service in rebel-held territory known for pulling people from the ruins of buildings destroyed by air strikes, said they were in “a race against time to save the lives of those under the rubble”.

The casualty toll in northwestern Syria was expected to increase, a spokesperson for the U.N. office for coordinating humanitarian affairs in northwestern Syria said.

“It just adds on to all the layers of suffering,” said Madevi Sun-Suon, the spokesperson.

In the Syrian government-held city of Hama, a Reuters journalist saw an apparently lifeless child carried from the ruins of a building.

Syrian state television showed rescue teams searching for survivors in heavy rain and sleet. President Bashar al-Assad held an emergency cabinet meeting to review the damage and discuss the next steps, his office said.

Erdogan said 45 countries had offered to help the search and rescue efforts in Turkey.

In the Turkish city of Malatya, a rescue worker crawled into a collapsed building, trying to identify a survivor trapped under the wreckage, in footage released by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

“What colour are you wearing? Are you wearing pink? Please take care of yourself for the moment, I cannot see anything else,” the rescue worker could be heard saying.

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More than 500 people dead and thousands injured in major Turkey, Syria earthquake

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

More than 500 people were killed and thousands injured on Monday, after a major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck central Turkey and northwest Syria, collapsing buildings and triggering searches for survivors in the rubble.

The quake, which hit in the early hours of Monday morning was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon.

“We were shaken like a cradle. There were nine of us at home. Two sons of mine are still in the rubble, I’m waiting for them,” said a woman with a broken arm and wounds on her face, speaking in an ambulance near the wreckage of a seven-storey block where she had lived in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey.

“I have never felt anything like it in the 40 years I’ve lived,” said Erdem, a resident of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the quake’s epicentre, who declined to give his surname.

“We were shaken at least three times very strongly.”

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said 284 people were killed and 2,323 injured, as authorities scrambled rescue teams and supply aircraft for the affected area, while declaring a “level 4 alarm” that calls for international assistance.

In Syria, already devastated by more than 11 years of civil war, a government health official said more than 237 people had been killed and about 600 injured, most in the provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia, where numerous buildings tumbled down.

In the Syrian rebel-held northwest, a rescue service said dozens had been killed.

Turkish broadcaster RTR showed rescue workers in Osmaniye province using a blanket to carry an injured man out of a collapsed four-storey building and putting him in an ambulance. He was the fifth to be pulled from the rubble, it said.

Footage on broadcaster CNNTurk showed the historic Gaziantep Castle was severely damaged.

President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone with the governors of eight affected provinces to gather information on the situation and rescue efforts, his office said in a statement.

“There was a huge noise and the building next to ours collapsed when the earthquake happened,” said a 30-year-old in Diyarbakir.

“I rushed outside. There was screaming everywhere. I started pulling rocks away with my hands. We pulled out the injured with friends, but the screaming didn’t stop. Then the (rescue) teams came.”

‘TOTALLY DESTROYED’
In the Syrian city of Aleppo, heavily damaged during the war, health director Ziad Hage Taha told Reuters wounded people were “arriving in waves”.

Syrian state television showed footage of rescue teams searching for survivors in heavy rain and sleet.

Rescue workers in rebel-held areas of Syria reported extensive damage.

In the border town of Azaz – an area held by opposition forces – a rescue worker carried a toddler from a damaged building. Another group carried a body wrapped in a white sheet as a crane pulled away concrete slabs, a Reuters witness said.

“Tens of buildings have collapsed in the city of Salqin,” a member of the White Helmets rescue organisation said in a video clip on Twitter, referring to another town about 5 km (3 miles) from the Turkish border.

President Bashar al-Assad was holding an emergency cabinet meeting to review the damage and discuss the next steps, his office said.

People in Damascus, and in the Lebanese cities of Beirut and Tripoli, ran into the street and took to their cars to get away from their buildings in case they collapsed, witnesses said.

U.S. OFFER OF HELP

The United States was “profoundly concerned” about the quake in Turkey and Syria and was monitoring events closely, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.

“I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.8 quake struck at a depth of 17.9 km. It reported a series of earthquakes, one of 6.7 magnitude.

The region straddles seismic fault lines.

It was Turkey’s most severe quake since 1999, when one of similar magnitude devastated Izmit and the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.

Monday’s tremor lasted about a minute and shattered windows, according to a Reuters witness in Diyarbakir, 350 km (218 miles)to the east, where a security official said at least 17 buildings collapsed.

Authorities said 16 structures collapsed in Sanliurfa and 34 in Osmaniye.

Broadcasters TRT and Haberturk showed footage of people picking through building wreckage, moving stretchers and seeking survivors in the city of Kahramanmaras, where it was still dark.

“Our primary job is to carry out the search and rescue work and to do that all our teams are on alert,” Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters.

Tremors were also felt in the Turkish capital of Ankara, 460 km (286 miles) northwest of the epicentre, and in Cyprus, where police reported no damage.

“The earthquake struck in a region that we feared. There is serious widespread damage,” Kerem Kinik, the chief of the Turkish Red Crescent relief agency, told Haberturk, issuing an appeal for blood donations.

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