Please note this article has been superseded with the launch on Thursday 9th February of the DEC (Disasters Emnergency Committee) Turkey Syria Earthquake Appeal.
Urgent rescue efforts are under way in SE Turkey and NW Syria after two powerful earthquakes struck the border region in the early hours of this morning, 6 February. The powerful 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes are feared to have killed at least 3,800, with 15,000 injured and rising – with a race against time to retrieve survivors buried under rubble amidst freezing temperatures. Islamic Relief have stated “the earthquakes are the worst to hit the Turkish region in 84 years and in Syria, the worst in over a century.”
WCIA alongside the Syrian Welsh Association and Wales’ international aid agencies is encouraging communities and individuals to urgently donate towards rescue appeals by organisations who already have teams on the ground, through longstanding local community partners:
- British Syrian Medical Society
- Islamic Relief in Turkey and Syria
- Oxfam in Turkey & Syria
- British Red Cross with Red Crescent
National World have produced a useful article on ‘How to send aid from the UK‘.
WCIA strongly encourage people in Wales to focus on donating funds rather than clothing and other items, which can be impossible to transport and distribute, and may undermine coordination of local aid efforts on the ground. Through the agencies above, your contributions will reach local partners most quickly and enable them to prioritise the things most needed by survivors – be that medical treatment, emergency shelter or clothing specific to the weather conditions in Turkey / Syria right now.
For parents and teachers wanting to support children to discuss the disaster and how they could respond, WCIA recommend Oxfam’s ‘Dealing with Disasters’ Learning Resource, which includes an Assembly script and slides, lesson plans and 7 different activities for young people. There are also wide-ranging bilingual resources on Refugees on Hwb (including the Syria conflict, refugees in Turkley and Wales).
Welsh communities have been responding to the tragic news from the Middle East with disbelief, solidarity and a strong sense of action. Mohammed Alhadj Ali from the Syrian Welsh Society said:
“Heartbreaking news coming from North Syria and South Turkey as a strong earthquake has struck the region. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this natural disaster. May everyone stay safe and be rescued from any harm. We hope for a quick recovery and support from all over the world.“Mohammed Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society (find on Facebook and on Twitter)
in an interview with ITV Wales, he urged supporters and communities Wales-wide “to respond to the emergency relief call launched by the Syrian British Medical Society, to relieve our Syrian refugees and displaced Syrian people affected by the earthquake that hit the northwestern regions of Syria and southern Turkey in the early hours of Monday, February 6.”
SWS have and SBMS have released a fundraising poster / flyer here.
The Welsh Government released a statement via Twitter: ” We are deeply saddened to hear of the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. Our condolences go out to those who have lost loved ones, and our thoughts are with those who have been injured and the first responders for all their hard work.”
Urgency of Emergency
The first earthquake of 7.8 hit at 4.17am while many were asleep, followed by several aftershocks as large as 6.5 magnitude only minutes later. Tremors were felt as far as Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon. Within 12 hours of the first earthquake and with rescue operations already underway, a second large earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 hit the region once more, whilst rescue operations were already under way.
“The scale of destruction is vast. Following two big earthquakes and over 60 aftershocks, people are still in shock and fear, they don’t even have time to mourn the lost ones.”Meryam Aslan, Oxfam Ankara
Within 12 hours, across Turkey and Syria a combined total of at least 3,800 people had so far been confirmed dead, with the number rising by the hour and expected to rise at least 8-fold by the WHO (World Health Organisation). Gaziantep has the highest death toll among Turkish cities so far, and in war-torn North West Syria – where millions of internally displaced Syrians are living in camps – those hit hard by the crisis are entirely reliant on international aid to assist with this emergency. Injuries have so far escalated past 14,000.
76 British search and rescue specialists with dogs and equipment have been despatched to Gaziantep in Turkey on Monday afternoon to join immediate rescue efforts, according to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. They will join 62 search teams from 50 countries who have are being coordinated through the Turkish Disaster Management Agency, alongside the United Nations humanitarian agencies’ response.
Straddling two nations in a region beset by conflict and the refugee crisis from the neighbouring Syrian Civil War – and with an immediate snow storm due to continue throughout the region until Thursday – there is urgency for aid efforts to be coordinated between local, national and international agencies on all sides, and for humanitarian needs to be prioritised.
In Turkey, response efforts are being coordinated nationally by the Turkish Disaster & Emergency Management agency through a network of regional and local government, aid agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), supported by UN OCHA (the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) who produce daily Ground Reports for aid agencies. WHO (the World Health Organisation) have briefed that “Türkiye has very strong capacity to respond to earthquakes, but the level of destruction is such that they have put out an alert for international medical assistance. We are coordinating potential deployment with the Turkish authorities.”
The area in Northern Syria where the earthquake has struck, has been at the heart of the Syrian conflict since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 between pro-government forces of Bashar al-Assad, and an alliance of opposition pro-democracy forces who currently hold power in NW Syria across areas of Raqqa, Idlip and Aleppo. Humanitarian efforts here are being coordinated thrugh Syria Civil Defence, popularly known worldwide as the ‘White Helmets‘.
However, Syria is ill-equipped to recover. UNOCHA highlight that 4.1 million people in Syria already depend on humanitarian assistance for survival, the majority women and children. 2.7 million are in the northwestern part of Syria, near both Turkey’s border and the epicenter of the earthquake. Turkey has previusly taken in 3.6 million Syrian war refugees – the most of any country – and many are clustered in camps along the border. In fact, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, according to U.N. data. UN-supported Refugee programmes in Syria and Turkey were already (in Dec 2022) underfunded by 48% (source: UN OCHA) against the promises of donor nations, prior to today’s earthquake.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, launching the UN multi-agency humanitarian response, appealed to member states worldwide: “Let us work together in solidarity to assist all those hit by this disaster, many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid.”
Further Information Sources
- BBC Live reporting and BBC Middle East
- Al Jazeera Middle East Homepage – Earthquake Toll Tracker, Who is Stepping up to Help?
- Guardian Turkey & Syria Eerthquake World News
- Relief Web humanitarian updates, Turkey Relief home and Syrian Arab Republic Relief home ; UN OCHA Turkey Ground Reports
- Turkish Government Disaster & Emergency Management Agency
- New York Times and NYT Turkey – Live Updates