🌍 Huge earthquake hits Turkey and Syria

🌍 Huge earthquake hits Turkey and Syria

Plus: A toxic relic sinks Brazil’s green cred

Hi there Intriguer. On this day in 1845, a priceless 2,000-year-old Roman vase was shattered into more than 80 pieces by *checks notes* a drunken visitor to the British Museum. The vase has since been fully restored and is back on display, but word has it the Museum now enforces a two drink limit.

Today’s edition is a 4.3 min read:

  • 🇹🇷 A 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastates Turkey and Syria.
  • 🇧🇷 The Brazilian Navy sinks its own aircraft carrier.
  • Plus: Iran pardons thousands of protesters, how the papers are covering the quake, and an interview with former Pakistani PM Imran Khan after his attempted assassination.

– VC & EP

  1. 🇳🇵 Nepal: Four ministers have left Nepal’s coalition government after the Prime Minister, a former Maoist guerrilla nicknamed ‘Pachanda’ or ‘fierce’, refused to appoint their party leader as home minister. The PM still has an overwhelming majority in parliament.
  2. 🇨🇾 Cyprus: Former foreign minister Christodoulides won the most votes in Cyprus’ first round election on Sunday (5 February). If elected president of the EU nation this Sunday, he’s promised to resume talks with Turkey-aligned Northern Cyprus, stalled since 2017.
  3. 🇦🇺 Australia: Australian and Chinese trade ministers met for the first time since 2019 on Monday (6 February). The virtual meeting comes after China curbed billions in Australian exports in response to Canberra’s 2020 call for an investigation into COVID-19’s origins.
  4. 🇧🇿 Belize: Majid Khan, a 42-year-old Pakistani national imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since 2006, has resettled in Belize after suing the Biden Administration for wrongful imprisonment. Khan is the first “high-value detainee” ever released from Guantanamo.
  5. 🇲🇱 Mali: The ruling junta in Mali has ordered the UN’s local human rights chief to leave following a UN report linking Mali-based Russian mercenaries to war crimes. Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Lavrov landed in Mali yesterday for a two-day visit.

A map of the first earthquake that hit Turkey and northern Syria early on Monday morning. Credits: The New York Times.

Death toll rises after huge earthquake rocks Turkey and Syria

Briefly: At least 4,800 people have died following a series of strong earthquakes in southern Turkey and northern Syria. The first 7.8 magnitude shock hit in the early hours of Monday (6 February) and was followed by powerful tremors that were felt as far away as Greenland.

Turkish emergency services are trying to extract survivors from under the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings, but freezing weather conditions are hampering their efforts. The quake is the biggest catastrophe to hit Turkey in nearly a century.

As well as a shocking human and economic toll, the earthquake has also destroyed historical sites such as Gaziantep Castle, which had stood for over 2000 years.

Intrigue’s take: Unfortunately, the final death toll is likely to be considerably higher than currently reported. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is warning of a looming humanitarian crisis in Syria, where rescue and medical services have been decimated by the ongoing civil war.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdoğan has received aid offers from dozens of countries around the world, including the US, EU, Israel, Russia, and China, looking to do the right thing – and inevitably also with an eye to Turkey’s geopolitical significance.

Also worth noting: 

  • President Erdoğan is up for re-election in Turkey’s general elections, which are due to be held by mid this year.
  • Syria’s GDP has fallen by 95% since fighting broke out nearly 12 years ago.

How different newspapers covered: The earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

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São Paulo aircraft carrier. Credits: New York Times

Brazil sinks an asbestos-laden aircraft carrier off its coast

Briefly: Last Friday (3 February), the Brazilian Navy deliberately sank the aircraft carrier São Paulo approximately 350 kilometres off its coast. Brazil bought the 1960s-era ship off France for just $12M in 2000 before decommissioning it in 2017.

The São Paulo will not be topping any recreational scuba diving list of must-swim destinations: its watery grave is 5,000 meters deep, and the ship is loaded to the gills with 9.6-tonnes of asbestos and other toxic chemicals.

So, environmentalists are understandably peeved. Proving that there is indeed an advocacy group for everything, the ship recycling advocacy group NGO Shipbreaking Platform said the scuttling was “the single most blatant violation of chemicals and waste treaties ever to take place.” Brazil’s Navy defended the decision on the grounds that docking São Paulo for repairs could have risked an accidental sinking closer to population centres.

Intrigue’s take: Shipbreaking is never pretty. But it seems this was a clear violation of international environmental law, sinking early hopes that the newly elected president Lula might lift Brazil’s green game. It’s also a reminder to do some due diligence next time you’re thinking of dropping $12M on a second-hand aircraft carrier: the São Paulo spent much of its Brazilian life under repair, as possibly the biggest lemon since the Ford Pinto.

Also worth noting: 

  • Brazil’s environment ministry said that the Navy failed to cooperate on São Paulo’s scuttling, and that the ship would seriously damage marine ecosystems.
  • The oil storage vessel FSO Safer has been floating off the coast of Yemen since 2015 with over a million barrels of oil on board.

Political pardons in Iran…

Iran’s supreme leader is pardoning thousands of people arrested for taking part in last year’s anti-regime protests. Widespread resentment was ignited by the death of a young woman at the hands of Iran’s morality police.

Unfortunately, the decision comes with a long list of caveats that will leave many behind bars. Four protesters have already been executed, and up to 100 more are at risk of the death penalty.

Iranian news sources are seeking to portray the amnesty as a moment of reconciliation between the government and society, but the regime’s harsh tactics have done nothing to address the underlying causes of the people’s discontent.


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