First UN aid shipment now in Turkey as quake toll surpasses 21,000

The United Nations (UN) said its first shipment of humanitarian aid reached northwest Syria through Turkey on Friday as the death toll from the devastating earthquakes in the region soared to more than 21,000.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the convoy made up of six trucks carrying shelter items and nonfood items crossed through the Bab Al Hawa crossing, areas mostly held by rebels fighting against the Syrian government.

“We are relieved that we are able to reach the people in northwest Syria in this pressing time,” Sanjana Quazi, head of OCHA Turkey, said. “We hope that this operation continues as this is a humanitarian lifeline and the only scalable channel.”

The UN initially said the cross-border operation was temporarily disrupted because of damage to the road connecting Gaziantep to the UN Transshipment Hub. The organization said it identified two alternative routes to reach the Hub following an assessment.

“We have a glimmer of hope that we can reach people,” Muhannad Hadi, the regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are hoping that tomorrow we will be able to deliver something across the border.”

The death toll in Turkey rose to 17,674 on Thursday with another nearly 73,000 injured, Vice President Fuat Oktay said, state-run Anadolu News Agency reported.

Figures from Syria are complicated by the ongoing civil war, with the Ministry of Health for the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad statring 1,347 people had died in areas under its control and the Syria Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets, tallied more than 2,950 deaths in rebel-held regions.

“More than 76 hours have passed since the earthquake occurred, we have pulled out hundreds of dead from under the rubble of their destroyed homes in Jenderes, the situation is still catastrophic with the presence of hundreds of others buried,” the White Helmets said in a Twitter post on Thursday.


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