Earthquake in Turkey-Syria: 7,700 killed, 40,000 injured

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Turkey and Syria on Monday, Feb. 6, around the Turkish-Syrian border. The death toll has amassed more than 7,000 lives, injured tens of thousands others, and reduced thousands of building and houses to rubble. Tremors were reported as far as Israel and Jordan.

The earthquake’s epicenter was less than 15 miles from the city of Gaziantep, with its effective intensity range reaching the island of Cyprus and the cities of Damascus and even Cairo. CNN noted that Turkey’s Head of Disaster Services, Yunus Sezer, reported the initial death toll at around 3,000 lives lost in Turkey. In Syria, the Syrian State News Agency recorded around 700 initial deaths, and the Syria Civil Defense also reported another 740 deaths in areas occupied by oppositional anti-government forces; On top of this disaster, the country has been embroiled in a civil war for the past 13 years, with the northwestern areas of the country being the primary site of conflict.

Thousands of aftershocks have affected the region, some almost as powerful as the initial quake, sending both countries into a state of grave emergency. European countries, the United States, and other NATO allies have sworn to assist financially and physically by sending medical, rescue, and financial assistance.

By Tuesday morning, first responders worked exhaustively to free people from underneath broken concrete and twisted metal. According to the Associated Press, they are fighting a losing battle, as there is only so much time and oxygen for people trapped under mountains of debris, with too many missing and not enough hands to reach out. Along with the lack of resources for first responders is the fact that Turkey and Syria are still amidst a deadly winter. As rain and snow accumulates, the odds of survival for those trapped beneath rubble continue to decrease.

According to Turkish officials, despite the near complete depletion of hospitals and clinics, medics have rescued nearly 8,000 civilians across 10 of the 81 Turkish provinces. Videos have circulated of the damages, showing cityscapes strewn with rubble and human remains. More than 23 million people live in the areas hit by the quakes and many of them have no other place to go. For the past few months, the United Nations has been executing an effort to assist more than one million migrants monthly throughout all of Eastern Europe. But with this quake, all efforts have come to a screeching halt, leaving many people without assistance and throwing the region further into chaos. Food and shelter has also been a struggle to maintain with overcrowding being common in many of the emergency camps set up by emergency medical groups.

The U.S. has made efforts by both state and federal powers to send aid to the people of Turkey and Syria. According to the White House, President Biden spoke with Turkey’s President Erdogan on Monday to work out a plan for America to assist. According to John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications under the Biden Administration, the U.S. will send 158 urban search-and-rescuers to assist Turkish efforts, and are negotiating on the amount of money and supplies to send.

Meanwhile, due to the ongoing civil war, American and Western assistance teams are hesitant to be deployed in Syria. Some areas are entirely controlled by Tahrir al-Sham, a group with ties to Al-Qaeda. There are also sanctions in place on Syria by the European Union from the 2010s and before which have sent humanitarian requests for assistance through a bureaucratic whirlpool of paperwork, costing time that the people in need do not have.

It should also be noted that Syria has close ties with the Russians. Russia has sworn to send in 300 military personnel to Syria for road clearing and other much needed assistance. Alongside Russia, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and the UAE has sent planes of first aid to Syrian government-controlled airports.

Still, in both Turkey and Syria, emergency workers are struggling to keep up the physically and mentally demanding job, with help in the form of more hands and resources constantly being in short supply.