Over 1,300 killed as powerful quake rocks Turkey, Syria
A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 1,300 people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.
On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night, as buildings were flattened and strong aftershocks continued.
Rescue workers and residents in multiple cities searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and giant piles of concrete. A hospital in Turkey collapsed and patients, including newborns, were evacuated from a handful of facilities in Syria.
In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus.
Farther east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once an apartment building.
The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of Gaziantep, a Turkish provincial capital.
It struck a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the swath affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.
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The opposition-held regions in Syria are packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments. Hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the White Helmets, said in a statement.
Strained health facilities and hospitals were quickly filled with wounded, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organization.
“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor, said by phone from the town of Atmeh.
Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999. The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8. At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.
Buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. Nearly 900 buildings were destroyed in Turkey’s Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras provinces, said Vice President Fuat Oktay. A hospital collapsed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Iskanderoun, but casualties were not immediately known, he said.
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“Unfortunately, at the same time, we are also struggling with extremely severe weather conditions,” Oktay told reporters. Nearly 2,800 search and rescue teams have been deployed in the disaster-stricken areas, he said.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
Countries from Taiwan to Russia to Germany offered to send help, whether medical supplies, search teams or money.
In Turkey, people trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic jams, hampering efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. Authorities urged residents not to take to the roads. Mosques around the region were being opened up as a shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes amid temperatures that hovered around freezing.
The quake heavily damaged Gaziantep’s most famed landmark, its historic castle perched atop a hill in the center of the city. Parts of the fortresses’ walls and watch towers were leveled and other parts heavily damaged, images from the city showed.
In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household belongings and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while excavators dug through the rubble below.
Culled from ABC News
Central banks to boost flow of US dollars
Central banks have moved globally to keep credit flowing after an unsettled period in the US banking sector and the Credit Suisse merger.
Six central banks, including the Bank of England, announced they would boost the flow of US dollars through the global financial system.
On Sunday the struggling Credit Suisse was taken over by UBS in a Swiss government-backed deal.
The US dollar liquidity “swap line” arrangement will run from Monday.
In a statement the Bank of England, Bank of Japan, Bank of Canada, the European Central Bank, US Federal Reserve and Swiss National Bank launched the co-ordinated action to “enhance the provision of liquidity”.
The announcement said it served as an “important backstop to ease strains in global funding markets” and to lessen the impact on the supply of credit to households and businesses.
Instead of borrowing on the open market, British banks will be able to go direct to the Bank of England, and it will borrow from the US Federal Reserve.
It will work in the same way for banks in the eurozone, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the US.
Banks will be able to access this funding on a daily basis.
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The arrangement, adopted during the 2008 financial crisis and the Covid pandemic, will start on Monday and continue until “at least through the end of April”, the Bank of England said.
The facility hasn’t been used in the UK since the financial pains at the onset of the pandemic exactly three years ago. This is not as dramatic a move as, for example, the Bank of England had to deploy after the mini-budget last autumn. But it is a clear sign that, although the past week has been dominated by specific issues in identifiable banks, the fall of a former giant such as Credit Suisse might be enough to ignite a more general concern.
The fear is less about the direct impact of problems at Credit Suisse or Silicon Valley Bank, but instead that a set of common factors are affecting some other institutions. For example non-insured deposits pouring out of some institutions and into larger ones at incredible speed, without anyone visiting a branch, thanks to technology, and influenced by social media commentary. There has also been an uncertain response by some regulators.
The bigger picture is, as I have said before, that rapidly rising interest rates were always going to set off some ticking timebombs under some institutions, and in some murky corners of the financial plumbing, where the players had started to become a little too reliant on very low interest rates. This is now happening.
The more calming news is that, for example here, British banks are well capitalised and have significant funding, or as the Bank of England put it on Sunday “safe and sound”. But the fact it has joined forces with its counterparts around the world represents a show of force and an attempt to prevent risks from spilling over.
In particular there is a concern that rising rates on the funds that banks lend to one another could rapidly filter into the economy and have a very real impact.
Global banking stocks slumped following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, despite reassurances from President Joe Biden the US would do “whatever is needed” to protect the banking system.
Since SVB’s collapse, the smaller Signature Bank also fell by the wayside and First Republic needed rescuing.
On Sunday, following the takeover of Credit Suisse by its rival UBS, the Bank of England said British banks were “safe and sound” and were well capitalised with significant funding.
Russian attacks continue in wake of Putin arrest warrant
Widespread Russian attacks continued in Ukraine following the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights.
Ukraine was attacked by 16 Russian drones on Friday night, the Ukrainian Air Force said in the early hours of Saturday. Writing on Telegram, the air force command said that 11 out of 16 drones were shot down “in the central, western and eastern regions.” Among areas targeted were the capital, Kyiv, and the western Lviv province
The head of the Kyiv city administration, Serhii Popko, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down all drones heading for the Ukrainian capital, while Lviv regional Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi said Saturday that three of six drones were shot down, with the other three hitting a district bordering Poland. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the attacks were carried out from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov and Russia’s Bryansk province, which borders Ukraine.
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The Ukrainian military additionally said in its regular update Saturday morning that Russian forces over the previous 24 hours launched 34 airstrikes, one missile strike and 57 rounds of anti-aircraft fire. The Facebook update said that falling debris hit the southern Kherson province, damaging seven houses and a kindergarten.
According to the Ukrainian statement, Russia is continuing to concentrate its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing attacks on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarsk in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province. Pavlo Kyrylenko, regional Gov. of the Donetsk province, said one person was killed and three wounded when 11 towns and villages in the province were shelled on Friday.
Further west, Russian rockets hit a residential area overnight Friday in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the regional capital of the partially occupied province of the same name. No casualties were reported, but houses were damaged and a catering establishment destroyed, Anatoliy Kurtev of the Zaporizhzhia City Council said.
ICC judges issue arrest warrant for Putin over war crimes in Ukraine
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Friday against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
The bold legal move will obligate the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbour and the Kremlin branded the court decision as “null and void”.
Neither Russia not Ukraine are members of the ICC, although Kyiv granted it jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on its territory. The tribunal has no police force of its own and relies on member states to make arrests.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia found the very questions raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Asked if Putin now feared travelling to countries that recognised the ICC, Peskov said: “I have nothing to add on this subject. That’s all we want to say.”
Stephen Rapp, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues under former president Barack Obama, said: “This makes Putin a pariah. If he travels he risks arrest. This never goes away. Russia cannot gain relief from sanctions without compliance with the warrants.”
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Putin is the third serving president to be the target of an ICC arrest warrant, after Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
DEPORTATION OF CHILDREN
In its first warrant for Ukraine, the ICC called for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation since Feb. 24, 2022.
“Hundreds of Ukrainian children have been taken from orphanages and children’s homes to Russia,” ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement on Friday. “Many of these children, we allege, have since been given up for adoption in the Russian Federation.”
The alleged acts “demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country. At the time of these deportations, the Ukrainian children were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Khan said his office will continue looking for additional suspects and “will not hesitate to submit further applications for warrants of arrest when the evidence requires us to do so.”
Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Andriy Kostin, hailed the ICC move as a “a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire international law system”.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was just the start of “holding Russia accountable for its crimes and atrocities in Ukraine”.
Some Russians saw the hand of the United States in the ICC decision, although Washington, like Moscow, is not a state party.
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“Yankees, hands off Putin!” wrote parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, a close ally of the president, on Telegram, saying the move was evidence of Western “hysteria”.
“We regard any attacks on the President of the Russian Federation as aggression against our country,” he said.
The court also issued a warrant on Friday for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on the same charges. She responded to the news with irony, according to RIA Novosti agency: “It’s great that the international community has appreciated the work to help the children of our country.”
Ukraine has said more than 16,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine.
A U.S.-backed report by Yale University researchers last month said Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in at least 43 camps and other facilities as part of a “large-scale systematic network”.
Russia has not concealed a programme under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.
The ICC’s Khan opened the investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. He highlighted during four trips to Ukraine that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
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