Quake Latest: Deaths Top 23,000; Politics Complicate Syrian Aid

Turkey is seeking a green light from Russia to get aid delivered to Syria’s northwest through its border crossings.

Rescue workers look for survivors amid the rubble of a building in the rebel-held town of Jindayris, Syria on February 9. Photographer: Mohammed Al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue workers look for survivors amid the rubble of a building in the rebel-held town of Jindayris, Syria on February 9. Photographer: Mohammed Al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the initial state response had been slowed by the fact that emergency personnel and their families were themselves trapped under collapsed buildings.

BoFA estimates that rebuilding costs in Turkey could be between $3 billion and $5 billion, or possibly more. The Turkish banking regulator relaxed credit-card repayment rules for those in affected areas as well.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria surpassed 23,000, with tens of thousands still missing. Over 86,000 have been evacuated from the earthquake area.

Key Developments

  • Turkish Anger Turns to Erdogan Over Quake Delays, Weak Buildings
  • Quake Aid Is Political Pawn as Powers Clash Over Syria Access
  • Turkish Opposition Targets Market Regulators After Stock Turmoil
  • Turkey Wants Russian Green Light for Faster Aid Flow Into Syria
  • Turkey’s Main Opposition Files Complaint Over Twitter Blackout

(All times Istanbul, GMT +3)

Credit-Card Payment Rules Eased (9:24 p.m.)

Turkish banking regulator BDDK said the minimum monthly credit-card payment ratio would be lowered to 20% for all affected in the quake zone. The ratio required to pay — based on credit card limit — was as high as 40% before the decision.

Banks will make their own decisions regarding cards closed to use over failure to pay the minimum amount required. They will be able to push back card payments, including the minimum amounts.

The decisions will be effective until Jan. 1, 2024.

Syrian Aid Becomes Political Pawn (8:32 p.m.)

Aid deliveries to Syrian victims are being hampered by wrangling between rival powers in the country’s more than decade-long war.

While supplies have flowed into heavily damaged regions of Turkey, in Syria the areas hit are mainly controlled by anti-government forces that President Bashar al Assad has been battling since 2011. That has raised tensions over aid provision that have embroiled Turkey, Russia and the US and Europe amid longstanding international sanctions on Assad and his government for atrocities committed since the start of the conflict, leaving quake victims as pawns in the wider struggle over the Middle East state. 

Messi Auctions Jersey (7:36 p.m.)

A signed match-worn jersey from football star Lionel Messi is being auctioned to benefit victims of the earthquake, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency said.

Graves With No Names (6:34 p.m.)

The body count in southern Turkey is so high that graves are being marked by numbers instead of names as the authorities expedite burials. In Hatay province, corpses are being transported to “earthquake cemeteries” after checks at local hospitals. If identification cannot be established, they are interred after DNA samples, fingerprints and photographs are taken.

Cost of Rebuilding (6:21 p.m.)

“It is very hard to put numbers on total cost at this point” but the estimated reconstruction cost of collapsed and damaged buildings in Turkey is between $3 billion to $5 billion, Bank of America’s Turkey economist Zumrut Imamoglu said in a note. “At least another $2-3 billion needed for supporting impacted people,” according to the report.

“There are many other costs associated with the disaster such as repair of energy and transport network, destroyed business activity, increase in NPLs and other humanitarian costs.”

Builder of Collapsed Building Detained (6:08 p.m.)

Turkish authorities detained the contractor of a collapsed building in Hatay province, allegedly as he was trying to flee the country, Haberturk news website reported. 

Death Toll Surpasses 23,000 (5:17 p.m)

The number of dead in Turkey and Syria rose to 23,425 according to Turkish officials and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of activists on the ground. Tens of thousands of people were still missing.

The number of injured in Turkey is over 77,000, according to President Erdogan.

Erdogan Faces Anger Over Building Quality (3:17 p.m.)

Erdogan on Friday noted the difficulty of dispatching immediate response teams to the quake zone, highlighting the massive scale of the destruction. 

Critics say the government’s delay in sending cranes and other heavy machinery to lift slabs of concrete missed a critical window of opportunity to save people. Experts fear tens of thousands more people are buried under the rubble, meaning the number of fatalities is likely to keep rising. 

Rent Aid From Turkish State (3:17 p.m.)

The government is preparing an “extensive” post-quake development program and will need “both the help of the nation and of other countries,” President Erdogan said.

The state will cover a year’s worth of rent for people affected by the quakes who don’t want to stay in tents, he added.

Iraqi Oil Loadings Returning to Normal (3:10 p.m.)

Iraqi oil loadings from Turkey’s Ceyhan terminal are “getting back to normal,” according to Mohammed Saadoon, deputy director general of Iraq’s state oil marketing company SOMO. 

Loadings have taken place from Ceyhan’s Quay 3; the other two quays are set to enter service Friday after maintenance, he said.

Read more: BP Says Exports of Azeri Oil From Turkey Are Yet to Restart

Opposition Targets Market Regulators (1:43 p.m.)

Turkey’s main opposition party filed a criminal complaint against top market regulators, alleging they failed to fulfill their duties by refusing to halt trading on the nation’s main stock exchange following the earthquakes. 

About 10% of all investors in the nation were living in the earthquake zone, according to the complaint by CHP deputy Murat Bakan. 

Trading in the nation’s equity market was halted on Wednesday following Monday’s quakes.

The two institutions declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg on Friday.

UAE Aid Relief Airbridge (1:32 p.m.)

UAE carrier Emirates will will set up an airbridge to transport urgent relief supplies, medical items and equipment to support quake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria, according to an emailed statement.

The first shipments are due Friday, consisting of high thermal blankets and family tents from various NGOs. 

Criminal Complaint Over Twitter Blackout (10:51 a.m.)

The CHP filed a criminal complaint against top government aides for restricting access to Twitter earlier this week during critical hours of search and rescue efforts after two devastating earthquakes. 

The CHP’s complaint targeted communication watchdog BTK, President Erdogan’s top aide Fahrettin Altun, and Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu. While BTK didn’t explicitly confirm restricting access, it met with Twitter representatives on Wednesday to warn about adhering to local disinformation laws. 

PKK Halts Attacks on Turkey Targets (10:29 a.m.)

Militants of Kurdish separatist group PKK said it’s halting “military action” against Turkish forces following earthquakes, according to ANF, a website that carries the group’s statements. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, EU and the US.

Turkey Seeks Russia Nod for Syria Aid (9:40 a.m.)

Turkey is trying to get a green light from Russia to use new border crossings for delivering aid to earthquake survivors in northwest Syria, officials with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

Ankara is in talks with Moscow to allow a flow of international supplies through Turkish border crossings Oncupinar and Cobanbey in Kilis province, in addition to an existing one further west, the officials said, asking not to be identified as the negotiations are ongoing.

WATCH: Rescuers continue to scour the rubble in Turkey, searching the buildings brought down by Monday’s earthquakes. Simone Foxman reports.Source: Bloomberg
WATCH: Rescuers continue to scour the rubble in Turkey, searching the buildings brought down by Monday’s earthquakes. Simone Foxman reports.Source: Bloomberg

US to Send $85 Million in Aid (3:18 a.m.)

The US will provide $85 million in urgent humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria, the US Agency for International Development said in a statement. US AID is delivering emergency food and shelter for refugees and newly displaced people, winter supplies, critical health-care services, safe drinking water and sanitation assistance, according to the statement. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed additional assistance the US can provide to support Turkish relief efforts, according to a readout from the state department. 

Emergency Rule Takes Effect (00:01 a.m.)

A three-month state of emergency officially went into force on Friday in Turkey, enabling Erdogan to issue decrees, suspend or restrict basic rights and freedoms or take extraordinary security measures. Under emergency rule, the government can prioritize public spending to address harm caused to quake victims or commandeer money, property or labor. It also enables authorities to tap into resources of financial institutions if public funds fail to provide the financing necessary to meet urgent and vital needs in time.

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