Liberian PPCC Delegation in Turkey Safe after Devastating Earthquake

.... The death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria is now at least 7,266

A Liberian delegation from the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, led by its executive director, Cllr. Jargbe Roseline Nagbe Kowo, has been marked 'safe' since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the town of Gaziantep, Turkey near the border with Syria on Monday, February 6. 

Cllr. Kowo and team are currently in the Turkish capital of Istanbul, some 850 kilometers from Gaziantep, to participate in a Public Policy and Change Management Training program. 

The PPCC delegation, which includes the Acting Chairperson of the PPCC Board of Commissioners, Bodger Scott Johnson and six other staff members of the Commission, is on a 'knowledge seeking' mission as part of efforts to transition the PPCC from the manual procurement process to digital. 

The death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria is now at least 7,266. Syria’s volunteer organisation the White Helmets, also known as Syria Civil Defence, said the death toll in northwest Syria was 1,020 in opposition-held areas.

Syrian state media reported that at least 812 people are dead in government-controlled areas, bringing Syria’s total death toll to at least 1,832. Turkish health minister Fahrettin Koca said in a news conference on Tuesday that the death toll in Turkey is now 5,434.

The earthquake led to the collapse of thousands of buildings in the two nations and aid agencies are warning of “catastrophic” repercussions in northwest Syria, where millions of vulnerable and displaced people were already relying on humanitarian support.

Search-and-rescue efforts however continue in both countries as workers race against time to reach victims buried under debris. The earthquakes, one of the most powerful to hit the region in a century, rocked residents from their slumber in the early hours of Monday morning around 4 a.m. 

Meanwhile, The International Rescue Committee is warning of “catastrophic humanitarian needs” in Syria and Turkey as it appeals for funds and lifesaving support for those affected “before it is too late”.

“With the response in its infancy the need for humanitarian aid is stark,” Tanya Evans, the aid group’s Syria director, said in a statement. “Roads and infrastructure, like bridges, have been damaged meaning it will likely prove challenging to get supplies to those who need it most.”

“Even before the earthquake, humanitarian access was constrained in northwest Syria, with most aid coming in via one crossing-point with Türkiye,” she said. “In this time of increased need it is critical that the levels of aid crossing also increase at pace too.”

The International Rescue Committee has been working in Syria since 2012 and responding to needs in northern Syria.

Turkey is no stranger to strong earthquakes, as it is situated along tectonic plate boundaries. Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck the country in the past 25 years – but Monday’s was one of the most powerful.

It is also the strongest quake to hit anywhere in the world since an 8.1 magnitude quake struck a region near the South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean in 2021, though the remote location of that incident resulted in little damage.

The Monday’s quake struck 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers (14.9 miles), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said. A series of aftershocks reverberated through the region in the immediate hours after the initial incident. 

A magnitude 6.7 aftershock followed 11 minutes after the first quake hit, but the largest temblor, which measured 7.5 in magnitude, struck about nine hours later at 1:24 p.m., according to the USGS.

That 7.5 magnitude aftershock, which struck around 95 kilometers (59 miles) north of the initial quake, is the strongest of more than 100 aftershocks that have been recorded so far.

Rescuers are now racing against time and the elements to pull survivors out from under debris on both sides of the border. More than 5,700 buildings in Turkey have collapsed, according to the country’s disaster agency.

Karl Lang, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech University’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, told CNN the area hit by the quake Monday is prone to seismic activity.

“It’s a seismogenic area. It’s a very large fault zone, but this is a larger earthquake than they’ve experienced any time in recent memory,” Lang said.

“The magnitude of shaking that is felt on the surface is both a function of the amount of energy released, the size of the earthquake, but also how far that energy is released below the surface. So if it is very close to the surface, if it is a shallow earthquake, then it can be very dangerous.”

Meanwhile, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who called it the largest disaster to hit Turkey since a 1938 earthquake in the Elazig province killed more than 33,000 people – declared on Wednesday a three-month state of emergency in the 10 areas hit.

More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey alone. But tens of thousands of others are estimated to be stuck under masses of flattened buildings, and many in southeastern Turkey have complained rescue efforts cannot meet the scale of the disaster.

The number of dead in both countries is expected to rise.

In comparison with other large earthquakes around the world, the 2011 Japan quake and tsunami – in which more than 22,000 people were killed or went missing – registered a magnitude of 9.1.

That incident left widespread destruction in its wake after walls of water engulfed entire towns, dragged houses onto highways and caused the country’s worst nuclear disaster on record.

A year before, in 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti is estimated to have killed between 220,000 to 300,000. A further 300,000 people were injured, and millions were displaced.

In 2004, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 9.1 struck the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, causing a tsunami that left 227,898 people dead or listed as missing and presumed dead.

The strongest earthquake on record was a magnitude of 9.5 in Chile in 1960, according to the USGS. 

Source: CNN and Al Jazeera contributed to this report.