Syria requests international aid after massive earthquake

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The Syrian government on Monday urged the international community to come to its aid after more than 850 people died in the country following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in neighboring Turkey.

“Syria appeals to member states of the United Nations... the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian” groups to support “efforts to face the devastating earthquake,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the Syrian government was ready “to provide all the required facilities to international organizations so they can give Syrians humanitarian aid”, after meeting with UN representatives and aid groups.

The quake killed at least 461 people and left at least 1,326 more injured in government-controlled parts of Syria, including the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Tartus, the health ministry said.

In rebel-held parts of the northwest of the country, at least 390 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured, The White Helmets rescue group said.

More than a decade of conflict and years of economic sanctions have devastated Syria’s economy and its ability to respond to large-scale disasters.

The Syrian government’s main allies Iran and Russia have expressed willingness to send aid, in addition to some Gulf states that restored ties with Damascus, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global militants.

Nearly half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in Turkey.

At least 2.9 million people in Syria are at risk of sliding into hunger, while another 12 million do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN said in January.

Read more: Can earthquakes be predicted? UAE-based expert seismologist weighs in

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