Earthquakes Rock Türkiye* and Syria
In the early hours of the morning, on February 6th, 2023 a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked south-eastern Türkiye, near the Syrian border, killing hundreds of people as they slept, injuring thousands more, and reducing five-story buildings to piles of rubble. A few hours later, another earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.5, hit the region causing even more heartbreak and damage. And in freezing, snowy conditions, rescue teams are now working to rescue survivors from the debris.
One of the hardest hit regions in Syria is in the north of the country where millions have already been enduring the hardships of the ongoing civil war, including families in refugee camps on both sides of the Syria-Türkiye border.
As of Thursday, February 23rd, Turkish and Syrian officials and international agencies are reporting:
More than 48,000 people in southern Türkiye and northern Syria are now known to have been killed (In Türkiye, more than 38,044 people have been killed and 80,000 injured and in Syria, at least 5,800 people were killed and 8,500 injured). And as the death toll continues to rise, morgues and cemeteries are overwhelmed; bodies lie wrapped in blankets, rugs and tarpaulins in the streets of some cities.
Syrian rescue teams and citizens of the region say this disaster has created conditions not seen at any point during 12 years of war and that the death toll will continue to increase if the UN – the world’s leading relief agency – does not find a way to expedite aid delivery.
The earthquakes are estimated to have impacted about 23 million people, among them many children – and survivors are struggling to cope without shelter, food, clean water or heat in freezing conditions.
The earthquakes damaged more than 170,000 buildings (including hospitals) in Türkiye and 8,000 in northwestern Syria. And in the face of sub-zero winter weather, millions of people have been displaced; scores of displaced people are sleeping outdoors or in tents; people need heaters and Non Food Items (NFIs) for winter. Ready-to-eat food, blankets, kitchen kits, sleeping mats, thermal clothes, and camp beds are some of the immediate needs. Injured people require first aid and medical care.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned humanitarian organizations face another challenge in keeping survivors alive. The WHO’s incident response manager, Robert Holden, said thousands are surviving in “worsening and horrific conditions”. Temperatures are dropping in the region, with overnight averages of -7 expected in Gaziantep – the epicenter of the quake.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) had deep concerns for the region concerning the winter weather ahead of the earthquakes. In November 2022, the UNHCR warned, “Millions of people displaced by conflict or persecution from Ukraine, Afghanistan and across the Middle East could face a perilous winter as freezing temperatures add to the misery that they are already suffering from spiraling prices, the lingering impact of COVID-19 and extreme weather linked to the climate crisis.
Roads are damaged, especially at the main border crossing, making it more difficult to get aid supplies sent across from Turkey to humanitarian organizations working in Syria. Rescue workers have struggled to reach some of the worst-hit areas, held back by destroyed roads and poor weather. Some areas are also without fuel and electricity and water as infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called for increased funding for humanitarian aid in Syria, saying that many people in the northwest of the country have already been displaced up to 20 times, and that medical care in the region was “strained beyond capacity, even before this tragedy.” At the centre of the issues compounding the crisis in rebel-controlled Idlib are the complicated arrangements for humanitarian deliveries to the Syrian region which operate under a mandate from the UN security council through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.
Adding to the hardship of Syrian communities, they have been struggling with an on-going cholera outbreak. According to the UN: Between 25 August 2022 and 07 January 2023, 77,561 suspected cases have been reported, including 100 attributed deaths to date at a case fatality rate of 0.13%.
Please give today to provide survivors with the emergency supplies they so desperately need.
How can I help disaster survivors today?
You can help World Renew continue responding to disasters like this earthquake around the world through your gifts and prayers.
- Please give today to help people suffering from the Turkey and Syria earthquake.
- Please join us in praying for World Renew staff and partners as they respond to this deepening crisis. Pray for the survivors of this disaster, especially for families left homeless by the earthquake and that they may receive shelter and much-needed emergency supplies soon. Please pray for humanitarian organizations working in the region that they can be a source of comfort and refuge for the people who are struggling with hunger, poverty, conflict, and injustice.
* In 2021, the Turkish government officially changed the country’s name, so Turkey is now recognized by the UN as Türkiye