The confirmed death toll mounted to over 4,300 due to mammoth earthquake that tore apart Turkey and neigbouring Syria on Monday even as the World Health Organization (WHO) fears that over 20,000 may have died as rescuers continued to dig the bodies and survivors from beneath the rubble of thousands of buildings flattened by the disastrous tremors.
According to official reports, the confirmed death toll across the two countries has soared above 4,300 after a swarm of strong tremors struck near the Turkey-Syria border.
WHO officials fear that the toll may soar to unimaginable numbers, estimating that 20,000 people may have died.
Reports from the Turkish and Syrian disaster response teams said that over 5,600 buildings have been felled across several cities, including many multi-storey apartment blocks that were filled with sleeping residents when the first quake struck.
An AFP report quoting eyewitnesses in the Kahramanmaras city of southeastern Turkey struggled to comprehend the scale of the disaster as some believed that this was the Apocalypse- the end of days.
Turkey’s relief agency AFAD on Tuesday confirmed that there were now 2,921 deaths in Turkey alone bringing the confirmed tally to 4,365.
Reporters from news agencies and rescue workers have reported horrific scenes from ground zero as sky scrapers continue to tumble left and right with survivors clamoring for safety.
In Gaziantep, a Turkish city home to countless Syrian refugees from the war-torn countries’s decade-old civil war, rescuers picking through the rubble screamed, cried and clamoured for safety as another building collapsed nearby without warning, AFP said in its report.
As per reports, the first quake- measured at 7.8 magnitude- was so massive that it was felt as far away as Greenland, and the impact is big enough to have sparked a global response.
Dozens of nations from Ukraine to New Zealand have vowed to send help, although freezing rain and sub-zero temperatures have slowed the response.
India dispatched the batch of relief material to disaster hit Turkey, hours after an announcement made about the same by the Prime Minister’s Office.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the first batch of earthquake relief material to Turkey- which consists of an expert National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) search and rescue team, highly-skilled dog squads, a range of medical supplies, advanced drilling equipment, and other crucial tools required for the relief efforts- was dispatched aboard an Indian Air Force aircraft.
In the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa, rescuers were working into the night to try and pull survivors from the wreckage of a seven-storey building that had collapsed.
Some of the heaviest devastation occurred near the quake’s epicentre between Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, where entire city blocks lay in ruins as snow gathers.
On Monday, according to the US Geological Survey, the first quake hit at 4:17am (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 18 kilometres (11 miles) near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, home to around two million people.
Reports by various rescue and disaster relief agencies have estimated that over 14,000 people have been injured Turkey, while at least 3,411 people were reported injured in Syria.
Officials said three major airports have been rendered inoperable, complicating deliveries of vital aid and a winter blizzard has covered major roads into the area in ice and snow.
The Syrian health ministry reported damage across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus, where Russia is leasing a naval facility.
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo — Syria’s pre-war commercial hub — often collapsed due to the dilapidated infrastructure, which has suffered from a lack of wartime oversight. Officials cut off natural gas and power supplies across the region as a precaution, also closing schools for two weeks.
WHO fears death toll may soar
WHO officials fear that the toll may soar to unimaginable numbers, estimating that 20,000 people may have died.
The global agency’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood told news agency AFP that there’s a continued potential of further collapses to happen as she feared an eight-fold increase in the death count.
Smallwood said that as the per the analysis of the initial reports, the number of dead and injured will, unfortunately, increased “quite significantly” in the following weeks as the dust settle and rescue workers recover more bodies from beneath the rubble.
The WHO official warned that people who’ve lost their homes will be meeting and gathering in collective environments which poses particular risks such as overcrowding and exposure to freezing temperatures. This, she added, may put the survivors at the mercy of respiratory viruses.
Turkey is in one of the world’s most active seismic zones in the world. A 7.8-magnitude tremor in 1939 killed over 33,000 people in the eastern Erzincan province.
The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999, when more than 17,000 people died.
Canadian PM Trudeau wants to work constructively with India, says Canada shared credible allegations with New Delhi weeks ago
India has repeatedly denied claims of receiving any intel regarding the allegations from Canada before Justin Trudeau’s announcement on Monday revealing them.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday asserted that Canada shared credible allegations that the Indian government may have been involved in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar weeks ago, according to reports.
The Canadian Prime MInister added that his country wants to work constructively with India and hope that New Delhi engages with them so that they can get to the bottom of this very serious matter. Meanwhile, India has repeatedly denied claims of receiving any intel regarding the allegations from Canada before Justin Trudeau’s announcement on Monday revealing them.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that there was a potential link between an Indian government agent and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force, who was gunned down in Surrey in June. Justin Trudeau made the allegations in the Canadian Parliament.
India has debunked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement deeming the allegations of the Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada as both absurd and motivated. Issuing a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that they have seen and rejected the statement made by the Canadian Prime Minister in their Parliament. It added that they also rejected the statement made by their Foreign Minister.
After the allegations by PM Trudeau, the Canadian government expelled a top Indian diplomat. In a tit for tat move, New Delhi also expelled a Canadian diplomat. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also claimed that the Indian High Commission and consulates are facing security threats in Canada and therefore cannot process visa applications temporarily.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was among India’s most-wanted terrorists, carrying a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. He was fatally gunned down by two unidentified assailants outside a gurdwara in Surrey, a province of British Columbia in Canada, on June 18, according to reports.
India-Canada row: No special exemption to India, says US NSA Jake Sullivan
Jake Sullivan asserted that this is something that they will keep working on, noting that there was no special exemption to India in the case.
The United States on Thursday affirmed that it is in constant communication with India and Canada amid increasing diplomatic tensions between both the countries. The diplomatic standoff broke out after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asserted that his country’s security agencies were investigating a link between the Indian government and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Speaking on the matter, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that the US will be in contact with India at the highest level. He added that it is a matter of concern for them and they are taking it seriously. He asserted that this is something that they will keep working on, noting that there was no special exemption to India in the case.
He underlined that there is not some special exemption for actions like this. He added that regardless of the country, they will stand up and defend their basic principles. In addition, he affirmed that the US will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process.
Jake Sullivan further dismissed reports that the US’s desire to strengthen ties with India would constrain its ability to voice concerns about the allegations. He asserted that the Joe Biden administration took Canada’s allegations seriously and it was in constant contact with Ottawa.
He also noted that the US have deep concerns about the allegations and that they would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account. Meanwhile, New Delhi outrightly rejected Canada’s allegation as absurd and motivated. In a tit for tat move to Ottawa’s expulsion of an Indian official over the case, New Delhi expelled a senior Canadian diplomat.
On Thursday, India asked Canada to take action against terrorists and anti-India elements operating from its soil. Furthermore, India also suspended visa services for Canadians, as the diplomatic standoff over Nijjar’s killing pushed their ties to an all-time low.
Canadian High Commission asks Centre to ensure safety, security of its diplomats, staff in India
The High Commission affirmed that all consulates in India are open and operational and will continue to serve clients.
Amidst rising tensions between India and Canada, the Canadian High Commission on Thursday asserted that some of its diplomats have received threats on social media. It urged India to provide security for Canadian diplomats and consular officers in the country. The High Commission further revealed that it has decided to temporarily adjust its staff presence in the country.
The High Commission also affirmed that all consulates in India are open and operational and will continue to serve clients. It added that in the view of the current environment where tensions have heightened, they are taking action to ascertain the safety of their diplomats. It further underlined that Global Affairs Canada is continuously supervising the safety and security of their missions and personnel as they maintain a strict security protocol to respond to any events.
On the other hand, the Vancouver Police Department has tightened security outside India’s Consulate amid planned threats from proscribed group Sikhs for Justice after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that Indian government agents were responsible for the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Const. Tania Visintin, the department’s media relations officer, noted that Vancouver police are not aware of any specific threats to Indian consular officials, but have increased police presence at the downtown Vancouver consulate.
In a shocking claim on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed the country’s security agencies were investigating a link between the Indian government and the killing of Nijjar. Following this, both India and Canada have been engaged in a diplomatic standoff. Earlier on Thursday, India suspended visa services for Canadian nationals until further notice owing to operation reasons.
In a meeting that was held on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly conveyed strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada, promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship.