A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey near the northern border on February 6. A magnitude 7.5 earthquake that occurred around 59 miles (95 kilometers) to the southwest of the first one struck about nine hours later. Tens of thousands of people died, and there was massive destruction.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake was reportedly the second-biggest recorded in the country, after the 1668 North Anatolia earthquake, and the strongest to hit Turkey since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake of the same magnitude. It was also one of the most powerful earthquakes ever registered in the Levant. The earthquake was felt in Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Turkish Black Sea coast. More than 2,100 aftershocks were triggered after the earthquakes. Shallow strike-slip faulting led to the seismic wave.
As of February 26, 2023, more than 51,100 fatalities had been verified, including more than 6,700 in Syria and more than 44,300 in Turkey. This is Turkey’s deadliest earthquake since the Antioch earthquake in 26 and Syria’s deadliest earthquake since the Aleppo earthquake in 1822. One of the victims of the earthquake was Christian Atsu Twasam, a professional football player from Ghana who mostly played as a winger. After the first earthquake, his body was discovered in the rubble a few hours later.
A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey on February 20 leaving 213 people injured. A magnitude 5.6 earthquake that struck southern Turkey on February 27 caused damaged structures to fall and at least one person to be killed. According to ACAPS, new earthquakes are among the worst-case possibilities for the area because they can affect the demand for and capacity to provide humanitarian aid. Buildings that have been damaged are highly likely to collapse, and survivors may continue to be terrified while also beginning to deal with long-lasting trauma.
The complicated humanitarian calamity that is currently affecting Syria is one of the worst in the world, and the earthquake will only make things worse and expose more vulnerabilities. The fact that the government does not fully control Syria’s northwest, which was the region most severely affected by the earthquake, presents one challenge to supplying timely relief. In contrast to Damascus, where help is managed within the remainder of government-controlled Syria, the UN’s coordinated assistance to Syria’s northwest is sent across the border from Turkey.
Although other countries have offered to assist Turkey, the country has a crisis management system to support the response, and getting relief to affected Syrians is probably going to be more challenging given that the country is not governed by a single entity. On February 14, three border crossing points— Bab Al-Hawa, Bab Al-Salam, and Al-Raee—were made available for UN assistance deliveries. Since the earthquakes, 282 vehicles carrying supplies from six UN agencies had arrived in northwest Syria as of February 22.
In collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), the Turkish government is in charge of the response there. An international aid request was made after level-4 emergency status was announced by state authorities. In 10 of the country’s provinces, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proclaimed a three-month state of emergency.
Dozens of nations and organizations have pledged to help Turkey and Syria with rescue operations. At least 105 nations and 16 international organizations have committed to helping the earthquake victims and providing humanitarian aid. Teams with search and rescue dogs were provided from more than eleven countries and financial assistance was also given in an effort to find those hidden beneath the rubble. However, outreach to Syria was less enthusiastic due to Western sanctions on the country as well as restrictions placed by the government on humanitarian organizations’ ability to operate outside of their areas of authority.
Pakistan, which is on the verge of default, also dispatched medical personnel, rescue workers, and humanitarian aid to Turkey as well as to Syria. Pakistani rescue squad 1122, with 51 members, was dispatched to Turkey. Later, two Pakistani Army teams joined the aid and rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria, bringing the total to over 200 rescuers. In addition, the federal government has set up a Rs 10 billion relief fund for earthquake-ravaged Turkiye. He and the Pakistani federal government made the decision to contribute to the relief fund with their one-month salaries. Urban Search and Rescue Teams equipped with the necessary supplies and trained to work in disaster-affected areas are being sent out.
Moreover, 16 relief vehicles headed for Turkey from Lahore with winter tents and blankets. As part of the relief and rescue efforts in various earthquake-affected areas, several Pakistani charities, including the Al-Khidmat Foundation, Baitussalam Welfare Trust, and Edhi Foundation, have also been active. The Turkish Embassy in Pakistan has received a donation of $50,000 from Sardar Shahid Ahmed Laghari, the chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, for the relief and recovery efforts for Turkey’s earthquake victims. According to authorities, a Pakistani-American billionaire who lives in the United States anonymously gave $30 million to the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
The immensity of the ensuing psychological pain, as well as the death toll and material ruin, are what connect the devastated locations, which are faces of abject horror. As heart attacks brought on by stress and poor living circumstances are common in earthquake prone locations, the death toll is certain to keep climbing. While the Turkish president pledged to restore the country within a year, the situation in Syria is very different and hopeless as a result of years of war-related destruction and the ensuing humanitarian disaster. The West will need to relax the sanctions, and the Syrian government will need to permit aid into the areas it does not control. Syria will continue to suffer if and until these actions are taken. The Turkish government has come under fire for failing to enforce contemporary building rules for years; it also permitted a real estate boom in earthquake-prone areas and has been responding slowly to the disaster. Turkish engineers, architects, and contractors have already begun discussing the need to update their outdated construction techniques. However, the restoration and rehabilitation cannot start until the rescue efforts are complete. Unfortunately, the rescue time frame keeps growing longer due to the aftershocks.