Devastating Earthquake in Turkey & Syria: A Desperate Need for International Aid
On Monday, February 7, 2023, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Turkey and Syria, followed by another quake of 7.5 magnitude. The quake killed more than 21,000 people and toppled more than 6,600 buildings in the region. Survivors left homeless are now facing freezing weather, electricity and water outages, and the terror of continuing aftershocks. The disaster has been deemed the “biggest disaster in the last century” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey is no stranger to earthquakes. The country is crossed by two major fault lines, causing regular tremors. In the past day, Turkey experienced more than 60 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 2.5. Larger quakes are less frequent, but still a regular occurrence in the region.
The disaster has put a spotlight on the already vulnerable Syrians living in the country’s rebel-held northwest, including cities such as Idlib. After years of relentless bombings by Russian and Syrian government forces, earthquakes ensued. In the region of Northwest Syria, there are approximately 3 million internally displaced people. Many of the hospitals and other infrastructure there have been either completely or partially destroyed by the conflict, and the international community is completely cut off from the area. Russian aircrafts have particularly been targeting these hospitals. The earthquakes have exacerbated the suffering of these Syrians.
The Turkish government hasn’t requested international humanitarian assistance, but UNICEF is supporting search and rescue efforts in Turkey and distributing hygiene kits, blankets and warm clothing to children and families affected by the quake.
While aid is increasingly flowing into Turkey from around the world, areas on the other side of the border in Syria’s rebel-controlled areas are seeing none of that. This tragedy has again highlighted the need for the international community to step in and provide much-needed support to implement effective search and rescue operations in the vital first seventy-two hours of the crisis.
The earthquake is also a reminder of how desperately Syria needs international aid, even if it’s hard to deliver. Aid is being sent to Turkey; however, aiding Syria, especially in the northwest where the most vulnerable are located, is more difficult due to the ongoing conflict and the fact that the Assad regime is not supported by most of the international community.
The latest earthquake is likely to have happened on one of the major faults that marks the boundaries between the Anatolian and Arabian plates.
0. “What caused the earthquake in Turkey and Syria” NPR, 7 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/02/07/1154913148/turkey-earthquake-fault-lines-syria
1. “No room for the dead as cemeteries in earthquake-hit Turkey and Syria fill up” The Guardian, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/10/cemeteries-earthquake-turkey-syria-fill-up
2. “Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: What we know — and don’t know — about earthquakes” Vox.com, 21 Sep. 2017, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/9/21/16339522/earthquakes-turkey-syria-explained-science
3. “How Turkey's Anatolian Fault System Causes Devastating Earthquakes” The New York Times, 7 Feb. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/02/06/world/turkey-earthquake-faultlines.html
4. “The Unbearable Plight of Syrians” The Atlantic, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2023/02/earthquake-syria-turkey-civil-war-humanitarian-aid/672970/
5. “How to assist quake victims in Turkey, Syria” ABC News, 7 Feb. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/US/earthquake-victims-turkey-syria/story?id=96948818
6. “In Syria, the earthquake ‘did what the Assad regime and Russians wanted to do to us all along'” Atlantic Council, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/in-syria-the-earthquake-did-what-the-assad-regime-and-russians-wanted-to-do-to-us-all-along
7. “Turkey-Syria earthquakes: a seismologist explains what has happened” The Conversation, 6 Feb. 2023, https://theconversation.com/turkey-syria-earthquakes-a-seismologist-explains-what-has-happened-199340