DUBAI: Iran disrupted internet access to the outside world as angry demonstrators rallied over the collapse of a tower in Iran that has killed at least 36 people, experts said on Tuesday as outrage and grief continued to grow in the country.
The disruption has plunged the southwestern province into digital isolation, making it difficult for journalists to authenticate events on the ground and for activists to share footage and organize protests.
It’s a tactic the Iranian government has repeatedly employed during times of unrest, rights activists say, in a country where radio and television stations already are state-controlled and journalists face the threat of arrest.
The internet interference in the oil-rich Khuzestan province started in early May, weeks before the fatal collapse, said Amir Rashidi, a researcher at Miaan Group, which focuses on digital security.
The province, home to an ethnic Arab population that long has alleged discrimination, was a flashpoint in protests over the sinking economy and skyrocketing prices of food staples.
Disruptions then intensified in the area after the Metropol Building collapse last week, according to data shared by the Miaan Group.
The disaster ignited widespread anger in Abadan, where residents alleging government negligence gathered nightly at the site of the collapse to shout slogans against the Islamic Republic. Videos of the protests have circulated widely online, with some showing officers clubbing and firing tear gas at demonstrators.
The footage corresponded to known features of Abadan, some 660 km southwest of the capital, Tehran. The number of casualties and arrests remains unclear.
In response to the protests, Iranian authorities at times completely shut down the Internet and other times allowed only tightly controlled use of a domestic Intranet, reported the Miaan Group.
During the day, authorities also appear to have restricted bandwidths to make it very difficult for people to share large files, such as video, without leaving Abadan altogether, said Mahsa Alimardani, a senior researcher at Article 19, an international organization that fights censorship.
Last Friday, as massive crowds took to the streets to chant against top officials, a digital barricade of sorts went up between Iran and the world, data showed. Only certain government-approved national websites could stream content but not websites based abroad. “There has been a pattern that we’ve seen when it gets dark where Google isn’t working but the website of the Supreme Leader is working well,” Rashidi said. The Iranian mission at the UN did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Meanwhile, rescue workers pulled another body from the rubble on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 34 amid fears more people could be trapped in the ruins. Five of the victims were school-age children, the official IRNA news agency reported. Another 37 people were injured in the collapse, with two still hospitalized.
Officials have blamed the building’s structural failure on shoddy construction practices, lax regulation and entrenched corruption, raising questions about the safety of similar towers in the earthquake-prone country. Authorities reported they evacuated residents from buildings near the disaster site, fearing structural damage.
Israel says approved aid to quake-hit Syria, Damascus denies request
Updated 10 sec ago
JERUSALEM: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had given the go-ahead to send aid to earthquake-hit Syria, but a Damascus official swiftly denied they had requested help in the first place. Israel “received a request from a diplomatic source for humanitarian aid to Syria, and I approved it,” Netanyahu told lawmakers from his hawkish Likud party, adding the aid would be sent soon. But a Syrian official told reporters Damascus “ridiculed and denied the allegations” that it had requested aid from Israel. “How can Syria ask for help from an entity that has killed... Syrians for decades?” said the official. Syria’s government does not recognize Israel and the two countries have fought several wars since Israel’s creation in 1948. Netanyahu’s office declined to provide further details on the source of the request to help Syria, where hundreds of people were killed by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake Monday in neighboring Turkiye. The Israeli leader has also confirmed his government would send humanitarian assistance to Turkiye following the disaster. Israel’s foreign ministry said a team of search and rescue specialists would leave for Turkiye on Monday, and that another delegation equipped with humanitarian supplies would follow on Tuesday.
‘Buildings folded like paper towels’: Turkish survivors recount harrowing quake experiences
“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever experienced,” Iskenderun resident tells Arab News
Death toll exceeds 1,500 as Turkiye activates level 4 alert state
Updated 06 February 2023
ANKARA:Turkish survivors of one of the Middle East’s most devastating earthquakes in decades have relayed their harrowing experiences of surviving the disaster, which left buildings “folding like paper towels.”
Berjin and her cousin Rojhat, who were holidaying in Turkiye’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, were about to return to their hometown, Van, in the country’s east, before the quake struck.
But early on Monday, the shockwave destroyed the building where Rojhat, a local football player, was sleeping. After emergency services arrived to rescue people from the rubble, Berjin waited for hours in front of the collapsed building in a distraught state.
After Rojhat was rescued, the two returned to Van, where an aftershock struck later in the day. “Please stop, it is such a strong quake, please stop,” Berjin cried in a video capturing lights and furniture shaking in her home.
Berjin, interviewed by Arab News, was was left waiting outside her destroyed home in minus 15 degrees Celsius temperatures after the second quake. The building was one of many in the city that had yet to be renovated following a 2011 earthquake, which killed hundreds of people.
Turkiye began the new week with a devastating and deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake — one of the most powerful to hit the region in decades — killing more than 1,500 people in the country and in neighhboring Syria. About 3,000 buildings were destroyed.
The quake struck just after 4 a.m. Monday morning local time, 23 km east of Nurdagi, Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 km, according to data from the US Geological Survey.
The earthquake also devastated parts of Syria, claiming hundreds of lives in the country. Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were also affected.
There was another 7.5-magnitude earthquake at noon on Monday, with the epicenter recorded near Turkiye’s southeastern Kahramanmaras province.
A hospital in southeastern Sanliurfa province was completely destroyed by the earthquake, with many patients left trapped under rubble.
Turkiye stopped oil flow to the southern Ceyhan export terminal as a precaution.
Ozcan Karakoc, a teacher at a state-run school in Diyarbakir, immediately ran to his school building once he felt the quake.
He was involved in assisting survivors next to the school, providing blankets and food to those rescued from nearby buildings.
The school is in Baglar district, one of the most-affected areas in Diyarbakir and also one of the poorest.
“I live in Seyrantepe district of Diyarbakir where buildings were relatively new and we didn’t have so much damage inside the houses. But the building next to our school was about an eight-story old building where more than 200 people were living. It folded like a paper tower in seconds,” Karakoc told Arab News.
He now anxiously awaits news from his students, with many living in run-down housing in Baglar.
After the quakes, the streets of Diyarbakir filled with people, including children, dressed in pajamas in the freezing weather.
Berrak Demirel, another resident in Diyarbakir, was sleeping when the earthquake struck the city.
She ran out of her home with her husband and children when the second quake ended.
“We stayed long hours outside, but had to come back home due to the freezing weather conditions in the city,” she told Arab News.
Turkish armed forces set up an air aid corridor in the earthquake zone.
Misel Uyar, a resident of Iskenderun, a town in southern Hatay provice, said that a hospital in the area was destroyed in the quake, with health workers and patients inside.
Several new buildings collapsed despite having supposedly been built to modern standards, he added.
Iskenderun port was also damaged during the quake.
“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever experienced,” Uyar told Arab News, adding that many of the town’s older buildings were destroyed in the quake.
“Another old building, just some meters away from my house, also collapsed, with several people dying inside.
“All our churches in the region were completely destroyed. The policeman guarding the Orthodox Church died as well because of a stone hitting his body. People took shelter in cars due to the fear of the aftershocks,” said Uyar.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party deputy Ali Oztunc, from Kahramanmaras province, was present in the quake zone during an interview with Arab News.
“All our local municipalities and AFAD, the disaster agency, are currently collaborating to rescue people and provide them with urgent needs,” he said.
“The 500-year-old unbreakable East Anatolian Fault passes beneath this city. We had urged the authorities several times in the past to take necessary precautions regarding the buildings.”
The need to build quake-resilient cities has been a top agenda in Turkiye for years, with prominent scientists warning authorities to take urgent measures.
About 18,000 people in Turkiye were killed in 1999 in a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Marmara region.
Another earthquake that hit the country in 1939 killed about 33,000 people.
Renate Cavdar, a music teacher in southeastern Gaziantep province, was surprised at the severity of the quake.
“It was felt so strongly. Several roads are blocked because they were damaged by the earthquake, and bulldozers have to clear the debris to open the passage,” she told Arab News.
“In Islahiye district, a building where an old relative was living collapsed. We are now trying to reach the area to get information from her,” Cavdar said.
According to the latest reports, several local politicians were killed in the region, which is also home to millions of Syrian refugees.
In the southeastern province of Adiyaman, a municipality building collapsed.
The campuses of some local universities were opened to host survivors.
Niyazi Buluter, a civil society activist for the Roma community in Gaziantep, lost six relatives in the quake, including children.
“I have been informed that some family died as the old building they were residing collapsed in seconds during the quake. Low-income people were residing in this district,” said Buluter.
“Several buildings also collapsed in our area. There were some cracks in our one-story house. But we couldn’t stand during the quake. It was so strong. I have a disabled child; I took him in my arms and ran out of the house quickly. May God protect poor people.”
Volkan Demirel, technical director of Hatayspor football team, appealed for humanitarian assistance in an emotional video posted on social media.
Several countries expressed solidarity with Turkiye after Monday’s earthquake.
“I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye,” he added.
Having declared a level four alert state, Turkiye also requested international help through the Emergency Response Coordination Center, the EU’s civil protection program. In response, 45 countries offered to help in search and rescue efforts.
“We express our solidarity and sympathy to our brothers in Syria and Turkiye following the earthquake,” said Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry.
Japan to send rescue teams to Turkiye following big quake
The rescue team advance party was scheduled to leave for the site on Monday evening
Updated 06 February 2023
Arab News Japan
TOKYO: The Japanese government on Monday decided to dispatch the Japan Disaster Relief Team/ Rescue Team to conduct search-and-rescue operations for missing persons in response to a request from the Turkish government following the devastating earthquakes there.
The rescue team advance party was scheduled to leave for the site on Monday evening.
Based on the request of the Turkish government, and in consideration of the humanitarian perspective and friendly relations with Turkiye, Japan decided to provide emergency humanitarian assistance.
At around 4:17 a.m. local time on Monday, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 occurred in the southeastern part of Turkiye. Other large quakes followed soon after.
Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency has said that the earthquakes in the south of the country have killed 912 people and injured about 5,385 so far. The figures are expected to rise significantly.
The Japanese statement didn’t mention Syria and who was also hit hard and suffered considerable damage by this earthquake.
World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake
Britain was sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists to Turkiye, a minister said
The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance
Updated 06 February 2023
PARIS: International offers to help Turkiye and Syria with rescue efforts poured in on Monday after a massive earthquake killed around 1,800 people and wreaked devastation.
The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance.
Ten urban search and rescue teams from various member states will support first responders on the ground, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said.
The EU’s Copernicus satellite system has also been activated to provide emergency mapping services, it added.
The EU is also ready to support those affected in Syria, it said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi voiced “solidarity” with those affected in both countries, saying the UN agency was “ready to help provide urgent relief to the survivors through our field teams wherever possible.”
India said it would immediately send rescue and medical teams as well as relief equipment to Turkiye.
Two National Disaster Response Force teams comprising 100 personnel with dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the affected area, the foreign ministry said. Teams of trained doctors and paramedics with medicines were also being readied.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” and “deeply pained” by the deaths in Turkiye — with whom India has frosty relations — and Syria.
Germany — home to about three million people of Turkish origin — will “mobilize all the assistance we can activate,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said, after speaking with the Turkish ambassador to Berlin.
Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) “can set up camps to provide shelter as well as water treatment units,” she said.
The THW agency is also preparing generators, tents and blankets.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman said the German government would hold a crisis meeting later Monday with the relevant ministries to organize an aid package.
Berlin will also increase its assistance to charities such as Malteser International providing humanitarian aid in northwest Syria by one million euros ($1.1 million), she said.
President Vladimir Putin sent messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conveying Russia’s condolences and offering aid.
“We hope for a speedy recovery for all the injured and are ready to provide the assistance needed to overcome the impact of this natural disaster,” Putin told Assad.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his war-torn country was “ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster.”
The message was reiterated by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said Ukraine was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and damage” wreaked by the earthquake.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Turkiye’s historic rival Greece, whose relations with Ankara have suffered from a spate of border and cultural disputes, pledged to make “every force available” to aid its neighbor.
Mitsotakis said Ankara had already approved the dispatch of a Greek emergency rescue unit, and Athens was ready to send “additional equipment, medical supplies, blankets, tents” depending on further Turkish requests.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced “full solidarity” with ally Turkiye, saying he was in touch with Turkiye’s top leadership and “NATO allies are mobilizing support now.”
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, whose bid to join NATO is meeting Turkish resistance, tweeted: “Saddened about the loss of lives in Türkiye and Syria following the major earthquake. Our thoughts go to the victims and their loved ones.”
He sent his “deepest condolences” to President Erdogan. “We stand ready to offer our support.”
President Emmanuel Macron said France stood ready to provide emergency aid to Turkiye and Syria. “Our thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he tweeted.
“The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted saying his thoughts were with the people of Turkiye and Syria.
Britain was sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists to Turkiye, a minister added.
Iran is ready to provide “immediate relief aid to these two friendly nations,” President Ebrahim Raisi said, offering condolences on the “heartbreaking incident.”