SAMANDAG, Turkey (AP) — Demolition teams are clearing mounds of rubble from the devastating Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, as emergency responders scramble to shelter survivors — who were traumatized anew by Monday's magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Turkey's already badly battered province of Hatay.
That quake killed eight people in Turkey and Syria and demolished or damaged more buildings, leaving countless homeless. The combined death toll from the Feb. 6 earthquake in both countries stands at around 46,000 — the vast majority in Turkey.
Here’s a look at the key developments Wednesday from the aftermath of the earthquake.
EU PREPARES FOR DONORS’ CONFERENCE
The powerful earthquake in Turkey and Syria will require a huge reconstruction operation at a scale “never seen before,” a top European Union official said.
European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi made the comment Wednesday during a visit to Ankara to prepare for an international donor’s conference, scheduled for March in Brussels. The conference aims to mobilize funds from the international community to support Turkey and Syria following the quake.
“We are all shocked by the horror the people of Turkey have to go through,” Varhelyi said during a joint news conference with Sweden’s minister for foreign trade and Turkey’s foreign minister. “This is why we are here to help; because we care, because we are friends, because we are allies.”
The commissioner continued: “My generation for sure has not seen such a devastating earthquake on the planet ... It will take a huge reconstruction operation. Maybe something, again, that we have not seen before.”
Last week the United Nations launched an appeal for $1 billion to help humanitarian agencies in Turkey assist millions of people affected by the earthquake.
TURKISH WATCHDOG FINES TV STATIONS
Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has fined four television stations that have aired programs critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government’s handling of the aftermath of the disaster.
The move is widely seen as a government attempt to censor negative coverage of the government’s earthquake response ahead of elections scheduled to take place by June 18.
The Radio and Television Supreme Council, or RTUK, fined Halk TV, Tele 1 and Fox TV and also ordered Halk TV and Tele 1 programs be taken off the air for five days, said Ilhan Tasci, a member of the council from Turkey’s main opposition party.
Meanwhile, authorities have blocked access to a popular online forum, Eksi Sozluk, where government critics have posted opinions. The website said on Twitter that it was trying to get information on the reason behind the blockage.
Erdogan’s government came under intense criticism after access to Twitter was restricted for several hours, days after the earthquake hit. Officials said the move was an effort to fight disinformation on Twitter. Many complained, however, that it hampered rescue efforts.
UN TO HELP WITH DEBRIS MANAGEMENT
The United Nations development program says it plans to support Turkey in the removal of rubble and the management of the debris from the earthquake’s devastation.
A UNDP statement says the agency estimates that the disaster has generated between 116 million and 210 million tons of rubble. It estimates an area at least 30 kilometers by 30 kilometers (18.6 miles by 18.6 miles) with debris piled three meters (yards) high would be needed to contain it all.
Turkish authorities say 118,000 buildings containing 412,000 units have either collapsed or are so damaged that they will need to be demolished.
UNDP said it aims to draw on its experience in responding to earthquakes in other locations, including Haiti, Nepal and Pakistan, the massive explosion in Beirut as well as rubble caused by the war in Ukraine.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.