Russia sends soldiers to help Syria clear quake rubble as hopes of finding survivors fade

Turkish rescuers frantically search for more 'miracle' survivors eight days after the earthquake hit

People assess the damage caused by last week's earthquake in the rebel-held Syrian town of Harem on Monday. Reuters
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Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Russia has sent more than 300 soldiers and special military equipment to help Syria clear the rubble after last week's powerful earthquake that devastated large parts of the country's north.

More than 37,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region last Monday.

The death toll is expected to rise, with little chance of rescuers finding more survivors under the rubble.

“Servicemen of the Russian group of forces continue to carry out activities to clear rubble and eliminate the consequences of earthquakes,” Russia's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Why has it taken so long to get aid to north-west Syria?

Why has it taken so long to get aid to north-west Syria?

“More than 300 servicemen and 60 units of military and special equipment have been involved in the work.”

Food packages, disinfectant and other essential supplies were also delivered to humanitarian aid points in the north-western city of Aleppo, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

Aleppo remains under Syrian government control but some of the hardest-hit regions are under the control of a patchwork of anti-government militias, including the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir Al Sham in Idlib province and Islamist groups backed by Turkey.

The contested terrain has long hindered the efficient distribution of aid in northern Syria but the situation became critical after the earthquake.

The Kremlin said on Monday that it was in contact with Syrian authorities over the provision of aid to affected areas.

However, it remains unclear how aid can be distributed in the north of the country.

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, has been a dominant military force in the country since it launched air strikes and began ground operations there in 2015.

Moscow increased its presence in Syria after the US pulled out its forces in 2019.

In Turkey, rescuers were searching for more “miracle” survivors under the rubble on Tuesday morning, as authorities sought to maintain order across disaster zones.

The government is set to begin legal action against construction and real estate companies over safety code breaches they say caused unnecessary deaths when buildings collapsed during the quake.

Updated: February 14, 2023, 7:05 AM