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Aid agencies rush to support victims of Turkey-Syria earthquake

07 February 2023

Alamy

Emergency workers search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building in Adana, in southern Turkey, on Tuesday

Emergency workers search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building in Adana, in southern Turkey, on Tuesday

THE death toll from devastating earthquakes which struck huge swaths of Turkey and north-west Syria in the early hours of Monday morning is rising rapidly. At least 4800 were reported dead by Tuesday morning, and thousands more injured.

International aid organisations are rushing to get support to the injured and those left homeless by the 7.8-magnitude quake, while rescuers are trying to save people from beneath the rubble of thousands of buildings in southern Turkey and northern Syria. People reported hearing desperate calls for help from under the rubble in places where rescuers had not yet arrived.

The quake in Syria wreaked destruction on a population that has already experienced more than a decade of war. Millions were living in makeshift homes in camps in freezing temperatures. Mark Kaye, of the International Rescue Committee, described it as a “crisis within a crisis within a crisis”.

The earthquake is one of the strongest to hit the region in more than a century. A second powerful tremor — at 7.7, almost as large as the first — struck several hours later, and threatened to overwhelm early rescue efforts.

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that it was the worst disaster for the country since 1939, when an earthquake killed more than 32,000 people, and injured more than 100,000. Vital infrastructure has been destroyed.

The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Mar Antoine Audo, told the Vatican news agency Fides that the quake was a “new tremendous bomb, lethal and known, which falls on us”.

Aleppo’s residents were, he said, without water, electricity, or heating, and people were out on the streets or in cars in freezing temperatures, fearful that a further tremor could strike. Some have taken refuge in a convent.

He said that the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, the Most Revd Georges Masri, had been pulled alive from the rubble in Aleppo, but his vicar was still missing. The Greek Orthodox cathedral has also been damaged.

In Turkey, the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, the Rt Revd Paolo Bizzeti, reported that the cathedral in Iskenderun had collapsed, and churches of the Syrian Orthodox and Orthodox communities in that city had also been destroyed.

Pope Francis sent messages of solidarity to Syria and Turkey, saying that he prayed “that the emergency personnel will be sustained in their care of the injured and in the ongoing relief efforts by the divine gifts of fortitude and perseverance”.

He repeated “his spiritual solidarity” with the “long-suffering Syrian people”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote on Twitter that it was “so terrible to hear the unfolding news about the devastating earthquak. . . I pray for victims, their families and all working to rescue those who are trapped.”

Charities have launched emergency appeals to help victims of the quake, and international governments have sent aid and rescue teams. Christian Aid, which is already working, through partners, in areas of Syria hit by the quake, said that it was handing out plastic sheeting, blankets, mattresses, and heating materials.

The chief executive of Christian Aid, Patrick Watt, said: “The scenes from this disaster are heartbreaking. And even before this devastating earthquake, we knew over four million people needed aid in north-west Syria alone.

“We are hopeful the British public will show the same spirit of solidarity and compassion that we saw in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine a year ago. Every prayer, every gift, every action brings hope to people hit by disaster.”

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