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Foreign relief and rescue workers have poured into Turkey and Syria this week following the devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that have killed over 21,000 people, even as locals are furious over the lack of help, the Washington Post reported.
Around 70 countries and 14 international organizations have sent teams of rescuers, donations and aid to southeastern Turkey, following the government’s appeal for international help after Monday’s quake.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Hatay province Wednesday, a focal point of the disaster, and pledged to reconstruct cities and find homes for individuals who had been displaced.
Even so, many locals expressed frustration over the government’s slow rescue efforts and wondered why officials were not searching for survivors in some areas. Residents of Adiyaman complained to the provincial governor that the city had been “forsaken.”
Criticism also poured forth across social media, prompting authorities to shut down Twitter on major Turkish mobile providers. Officials have not commented on the outage, even as opposition politicians and celebrities warned that the shutdown could disrupt rescue efforts and humanitarian relief work, according to Agence France-Presse.
Since Monday’s earthquake, Turkish police have arrested 18 people for “provocative” social media remarks criticizing the government’s response.
Authorities had previously issued numerous warnings about disseminating disinformation ahead of a crucial May 14 election that most expect to give Erdogan an extension on his two-decade rule as prime minister and then president.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Syria, a United Nations convoy entered the country’s northwest for the first time Thursday, amid a push to deliver foreign aid into an area wracked by years of civil conflict, CNN added.
Until Thursday, no supplies had traveled from Turkey via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to rebel-held parts of northern Syria – and which is the only humanitarian aid corridor between the two countries.
Some Syrians had gathered at the crossing to protest why only corpses are being allowed through: Around 300 bodies belonging to Syrian refugees who sought safety in Turkey are being sent back to Syria to be buried in their home country.
Just like its neighbor, the Syrian government also called for more international aid and urged Western nations to lift sanctions imposed on the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Still, critics of the Syrian president condemned the government’s attempt to use the natural disaster “as a ticket to remove sanctions.”