Syria has authorized the opening of two new cross-border crossing points with Turkey, in order to speed up the arrival of humanitarian aid in the regions devastated by the earthquake of February 6 which killed more than 35,000 people in the two countries.
"I welcome Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision today to open the two crossings of Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra'ee between Turkey and northwestern Syria for an initial period of three months," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
Calls to open new crossing points between Turkey and northwestern Syria, some areas of which are controlled by the rebellion, had multiplied in recent days.
Bashar al-Assad announced his decision to UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, whom he met Monday in Damascus, when the Security Council was meeting to discuss the subject. The opening of the two new crossings "will allow more aid to come in, faster," Guterres said.
"It will be very simple," commented the French ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière, after the meeting of the Security Council. "Either the two extra dots work, and that's fine […]. There should be no obstacles to cross. If it doesn't, if it doesn't work, I think the Security Council will have to get back to work,” he warned.
"If the regime is serious about this, if the regime is willing to walk the talk, then it would be a good thing for the Syrian people," said Ned Price, spokesman for the Department of Security. US state.
"We have failed the people of northwestern Syria," Griffiths previously acknowledged on Twitter. "They rightly feel abandoned" seeing that humanitarian aid is not arriving, and this failure needs to be "corrected as soon as possible".
Before the earthquake, almost all of the crucial aid for more than 4 million people living in the rebel areas of northwestern Syria was channeled from Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in the North-West, to date the only operational crossing point.
Another ray of hope a week after the disaster, victims continued to be found alive in the rubble in Turkey. But the toll of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake continues to grow and could even "double" according to the UN: it amounted to 35,331 dead on Monday evening - 31,643 dead in southern Turkey, according to Afad, the Turkish public disaster management body, while the authorities have counted 3,688 dead in Syria.
"72,663 people may have lost their lives and 193,399 people may be injured," according to a report by employers' association Turkonfed published by Turkish media on Monday. The economic cost of the earthquake could reach "84.1 billion dollars", indicates the same source.
Trucks, with on board enough to make shelters using plastic sheeting, as well as blankets, mattresses, ropes or even screws and nails, crossed the Turkish-Syrian border on Monday.
"There was nothing I could do," said Abdelbaset Khalil, a Syrian nurse anesthetist from the town of Harim in the rebel-held province of Idlib bordering Turkey, whose wife and two daughters were killed in the earthquake while he was already at work.
According to Syrian Transport Ministry official Suleiman Khalil, 62 planes loaded with aid have so far landed in Syria and more are expected in the coming hours and days, particularly from Saudi Arabia.
In southern Turkey, where aid is now flowing, rescuers have extracted more survivors from the rubble. These rescues are unexpected, as they occurred well beyond the crucial 72-hour post-disaster period.
During the night from Sunday to Monday, seven people were released alive in Turkey, according to the press, including a three-year-old child in Kahramanmaras and a 60-year-old woman in Besni. Another, 40, was also rescued after 170 hours in Gaziantep.
In total, more than 34,000 people are still working to find survivors, said Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay. But the hundreds of thousands of homeless must now become the priority.
Some 1.2 million people have been housed in student residences and 400,000 evacuated, Fuat Oktay added.
In Antakya, the Antioch of Greek Antiquity, after the first three or four days of abandonment, relief is now organised. In Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the earthquake, 30,000 tents have been erected, and 48,000 people are accommodated in schools and 11,500 in sports halls, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
A strong police and military presence is now visible, the authorities specifying that it is a question of preventing looting, after incidents this weekend. Now, according to AFP teams, in Antakya as in Kahramanmaras, aid is flowing. Meanwhile, search operations have ended in Sanliurfa, Kilis, Osmaniye and Adana, according to Turkish media. On the other hand, noted the Minister of the Interior, they continue in 308 places in Kahramanmaras.