By Kelly Bjornstad
On February 6th around 4:17 a.m. local time, Turkey and Syria suffered one of the most devastating earthquakes of the century. The quake shook at a magnitude of 7.8, and in an early statement, CNN had reported 4,372 casualties. Later, the Wall Street Journal gave an updated account, reporting that over 5,400 people had been found dead. As far as injuries go, CNN writes “A total of 15,834 injuries have been reported, Sezer said in a news conference in Ankara.” As the numbers of deaths and injuries increase, Yunus Sezer, head of Turkey’s disaster services, assures further updates in time to come. And according to APnews, about 58 villages, towns, and cities in northwestern Syria have suffered severe damage from the violent shake.
The earthquake did not stop after the initial tremble, either. A series of aftershocks continued to roll through Turkey and Syria stretching almost 300 kilometers along the fault that ruptured in southern Turkey. CNN’s Tayloy Ward explains “At least 100 aftershocks measuring 4.0 or greater have occurred since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey on Monday morning local time, according to the United States Geological Survey.” She continues to write that even now, hours after the event, 5.0-6.0 magnitude aftershocks are likely to rattle survivors and rescue teams alike. Additionally, CBS news writes “…some 145 aftershocks were registered following the deadly quake overnight, with three that were larger than 6.0 magnitude.”
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, Ukraine, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, and Iran are all examples of places and organizations that are currently sending physical and financial aid as Turkey and Syria pick up the pieces from this recent devastation. Australia and New Zealand announced a combined total of $11.5 million in aid on Monday, and the Red Cross humanitarian agencies have put forth an additional $10 million dollars in support of quake-victims. CNN states “Mahdi Ghanem, an official at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told SANA that each plane carried about 70 tons of food, medical supplies, blankets and necessary supplies.” The European Union has also taken it upon themselves to be a part of recovery, CBSnews writing “The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams to help Turkey, and has activated the 27-nation bloc’s Copernicus satellite system to provide emergency mapping services.” Russia, Germany, the Israeli army, Greece, Spain, Poland, and Croatia are also among the many countries and military groups providing any assistance they can to Turkey. This aid includes equipment, search and rescue dogs, firefighters, medical teams, doctors, generators, tents, blankets, engineers and seismic specialists, according to CBSnews.
Though, rescue hasn’t been easy. Turkey and Syria have already been facing, as The New York Times explains, “Near-freezing temperatures,” making rescue efforts even more complicated. On a live conference from the Hatay Emergency Coordination Center, Turkish Health minister Fahrettin Koca explained, “The weather conditions and the scale of the disaster make it hard for our teams to reach the region,” adding “our helicopters could not take off today due to weather conditions.”
Hospitals in the area are completely overrun, and the injured are being treated on a basis of survival predictions. Shajul Islam, a British doctor a part of several non-governmental organizations in aid, shares his worst day out of his entire career working in Syria. He stated, “I’m literally taking a patient off a ventilator to give another patient a chance, having to decide which patient has more of a chance of surviving or not,” APnews speaks with Majdi al-Ibrahim, a general surgeon at a hospital completely overwhelmed with patients. He explains, “We need urgent help. The danger is beyond our capacity,” Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria and southern Turkey, describe in a statement that their facilities are “overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways” and are in dire need of “trauma supplies and a comprehensive emergency response to save lives and treat the injured,”
Syria’s hospital-crisis has been hindered by the already existing civil war, where civilians are already experiencing sickness, poverty, and lack of basic necessities. The wars have been in effect since 2011, and Journalist Geoff Bennett paints a picture for us of the devastation in Syria. He stated, “At this hospital in Afrin, more evidence of the enormity of the loss. Bodies wrapped in blankets filled the floor. The hardest-hit regions in Syria are home to millions of displaced refugees from the country’s civil war, living in poverty with little access to health care and few resources.” He continued, saying, “For Syrians who have endured a brutal civil war, this sense of suffering is really all too familiar.”
As updates continue to tell us about victims of the earthquake, it’s important to stay informed about what’s happening across the seas. That way, you know how you can help, and appreciate all those who are risking their lives to keep everybody as safe and as accounted for as possible. We can only hope that all those affected recover as quickly as possible, surrounded by community and people that care.