More than 41,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria on February 6. The quake hit early in the morning, which meant many people were still in bed, causing them to be trapped under the debris of their homes.
Teams are working frantically to aid survivors as aid agencies warn that that snow and cold temperatures, as well as a lack of water, communications, and power, may hamper their efforts. More than 100,000 people have been injured in Syria and Türkiye, according to figures from the Turkish government, the White Helmets, and the media. Speaking at a press conference in Osmaniye, Türkiye, President Recep Erdogan said over 12,000 buildings had collapsed in the earthquake. Teams from more than two dozen countries are in Türkiye helping local emergency personnel in the rescue and recovery effort.
Getting assistance into Syria is more challenging due to the Syrian regime’s limits on the movement of aid into the country. The one border crossing that the UN is allowed to use to bring aid from Turkiye into northwest Syria was temporarily closed after the earthquake, hindering relief efforts. On February 9, a United Nations aid convoy was finally able to cross from Türkiye into northwest Syria for the first time since the quake.
In a recent press conference, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences over the “truly staggering, shocking,” loss of life in Türkiye and Syria.
“We, I think along with people around the world, are mourning those who have been lost, and also our thoughts are so with those who have lost loved ones,” he said.
Secretary Blinken outlined what the United States is doing to help:
“So far, we have deployed more than 150 search and rescue personnel to Türkiye. We have U.S. helicopters that are helping to reach areas that would otherwise be difficult to access. In Syria, we have NGO partners like the White Helmets that we’ve funded for years who have provided life-saving assistance since the earthquake struck. Across both countries, we’ve deployed experienced emergency managers, hazardous materials technicians, engineers, logisticians, paramedics, planners, others, along with about 170,000 pounds of specialized tools and equipment.”
“We are determined,” said Secretary Blinken, “to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”