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German, French, Italian leaders in Kyiv in show of support

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(Last Updated On: June 16, 2022)

Several air raid sirens rang out in Kyiv as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi started a joint visit to show support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

The three arrived in the Ukrainian capital early on Thursday after traveling together overnight in a train used to transport high-profile visitors to Ukraine, Reuters reported.

“It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians, of support, to talk both about the present and the future, since the coming weeks, as we know, will be very difficult,” Macron said as they arrived.

Macron, who had been criticized at home and abroad for not traveling to Ukraine earlier, had repeatedly said he would only go if and when the visit could be “useful” and not be just a symbolic show of support.

It remained to be seen what concrete steps he would announce, Reuters reported.

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis will also join the three for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which are expected to touch on Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union as well as the war itself.

“We’re here, we’re focused, we will join President Zelenskiy to go to a war site where massacres have been carried out,” Macron said.

An Elysee official said the visit was happening now as it was just before an EU summit, scheduled for next week, that is due to discuss Kyiv’s bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

The European Union’s executive is expected to propose on Friday that Ukraine become a formal candidate for membership of the bloc, diplomats and officials say.

Zelenskiy meanwhile is expected to push his visitors to send more arms to help his hard-pressed army withstand the Russian invaders, Reuters reported.

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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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Turkey earthquake of magnitude 7.9 shakes central region, Syria

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

A strong earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck southern Turkey early on Monday and was felt in Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria, collapsing buildings and sending residents into the snowy streets, Reuters quoted witnesses and broadcasters said.

The German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) said the quake struck at a depth of 10 km (6 miles) near the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, while the EMSC monitoring service said the chance of a tsunami risk was being evaluated.

The tremor lasted about a minute and shattered windows, according to a Reuters witness in Diyarbakir, 350 km (218 miles) to the east, read the report.

Broadcasters TRT and Haberturk showed images of people gathered around wrecked building in Kahramanmaras, seeking survivors.

The governor of Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa province, Salih Ayhan, said on Twitter, “We have destroyed buildings” and urged people to move to safe locations.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) put the magnitude of the quake at 7.4 near Kahramanmaras and the larger city of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border, Reuters reported.

Syrian state media said a large number of buildings collapsed in the province of Aleppo, while a source in the Hama civil service said several buildings collapsed there.

“Paintings fell off the walls in the house,” said Samer, a resident of Damascus, the Syrian capital. “I woke up terrified. Now we’re all dressed and standing at the door.”

People in Damascus, as well as in the Lebanese cities of Beirut and Tripoli ran into the street on foot and took to their cars to get away from their buildings in case of collapses, witnesses said.

The area is regularly hit by strong earthquakes, read the report.

The head of the Turkish Red Cross said it was mobilising resources for the region as it had received information of serious damage and collapsed buildings, and urged people to evacuate damaged homes.

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