Turkey And Syria Devastated By Massive Earthquake

A deadly earthquake shook Turkey and Syria on February 6 causing mass destruction and suffering.


Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Search and rescue teams dig through the rubble in hopes of finding survivors in Salqin, Syria.

Elle Simon, Web Editor-In-Chief

On Mon. Feb. 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria at 4:17 a.m. local time. The aftershock could be felt in Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. Just nine hours later, a second quake with a magnitude of 7.5 hit the same area.

A graph from TIME Magazine displays where the two earthquakes struck in Turkey and Syria. (TIME Magazine)

The death toll passed 41,000 as of Tues. Feb.14 . and is likely to hold as the rescue phase comes to a close according to the United Nations. More than 44,000 people have been injured as well according to the Turkish government, Syrian state media, and the White Helmets. Rescue efforts are spanning in 10 different provinces in Turkey according to The New York Times

“We are face to face with one of the biggest disasters ever for our region,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised address. 

The first 72 hours following a natural disaster are the most crucial in order to rescue as many survivors as possible according to NPR. Fighting against the clock, search and rescue teams have been fighting freezing temperatures and snowfall piling on debris. Survivors, many of whom are barefoot, have been huddling together by bonfires made of the wreckage in efforts to stay warm.

Residents of Jandairis, Syria huddle together by a small fire in an attempt to keep warm while search and rescue efforts continue. (Bakr Alkasem/Agence France-Presse | Getty Images)

“We have to fight against the weather and the earthquake at the same time,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said. 

The devastation from the earthquake has been made worse by the humanitarian crisis in Syria due to the country’s decade long civil war. Economic collapse and the winter fuel crisis have already caused refugees to struggle with hunger and staying warm. The United Nations and aid groups pleaded for more aid to be sent to the country as there was not enough rescue equipment to save as many trapped people as there were. 

“How can we tolerate all this,” survivor and northwestern Syria resident Ibrahim al-Khatib said. “With the Russian airstrikes, and then Bashar al-Assad’s attacks, and today the earthquake?”

In Turkey, the situation is almost as bad as it is in Syria. On Tues. Feb 7., a huge fire broke out at a major Turkish port majorly slowing down the arrival of much needed supplies. The middle eastern country has also been facing an economic crisis causing resources to be limited even before the earthquake.

In light of the tragedy, Turks around the world have gathered together to raise funds to send back to their home country. A nursing home for the Turkish residents of Berlin packed boxes with sweaters and unloaded trucks filled with baby formula and diapers on Wens. Feb 8. Turks around the city came to the nursing home to deliver bags packed with goods to send to Turkey. 

“I think that’s why so many of us come here, why we are so frantically helping,” nursing home employee Kübra Ergün-Bektas said in an interview with The New York Times. “This is the only thing you can do to distract from the worst thoughts when facing so much grief.”

In Britain, Turkish students at University College London started a bake sale to raise money. Atilla Ustun, a spokesman for the British Turkish Association, drove two vans full of baby clothes, winter coats, and blankets to London Heathrow Airport to ship back to his home country. Residents of Ustun’s UK hometown, Lutton, have raised 25,000 pounds and collected 10 tons of clothing. 

Volunteers hand out clothes to earthquake victims in Iskenderun, Turkey. (Sergey Ponomarev| The New York Times)

“We try to do our best in a time of crisis like this,” Ustun said in an interview with The New York Times. “Being a part of a big tragedy, we’re all a big part of the picture itself.”

In conjunction with Turks around the world, international and national organizations are making efforts to support victims of the earthquake. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is accepting donations to help with water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and helping unaccompanied children find their families in Syria. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is collecting donations for their Disaster Response Emergency Fund. If you would like more information on how to help the earthquake victims, visit this article from The New York Times.