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The response to earthquake in Syria and Turkey

2023-03-01 22:08

Issam Khoury

The response to earthquake in Syria and Turkey

The victims of the two earthquakes that struck Turkey with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter and 7.5 on the Richter scale have constantly been increasing since

The victims of the two earthquakes that struck Turkey with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter and 7.5 on the Richter scale have constantly been increasing since February 6, 2023, and the reason for that was the intensity of the destruction that left a large part of the wounded trapped under tons of rubble, and actually, these two earthquakes caused a vast landslide More than 50 meters and a depth of 40 meters in the Hatay region of Turkey and made the city of Antioch a completely destroyed city, and those damages extended to all cities located in (Gaziantep, Hatay[1], Şanlıurfa, Malatya, Adıyaman, Kilis, Osmaniye, Adana, Diyarbakir).


Syria, which is located on the East Anatolian Fault (EAF)[2], was not in a better condition, as the destruction affected all the towns and cities in the northwestern regions of Syria that are under the authority of the Salvation Government and the Interim Government, such as (Jarabulus, Afrin, Armanāz, Jindires, Kafar Roma, Haram, Salqin, Millis, Al Atārib, Sarmadā, Azmarīn, Al-Dana, Marea, Al-Bab, Azaz, Jandiris, Darkush, Jdayde, Yacubiyeh, Qunaya, Maland, Al-Ramadiyeh and Jisr al-Shughur.)



The impact of the earthquake also extended to cities affiliated with the Syrian regime, perhaps the most prominent of which are (Lattakia, Jableh, and Tartous). The impact of the earthquake was weaker in the mountainous areas adjacent to these cities.


According to the latest available statistics as of February 18, 2023, the number of Turkish and Syrian victims has reached approximately 46 thousand[3], including 40,642 Turkish victims, according to the head of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, Yunus Cesar[4] and the number of Syrian victims who died inside Turkey is not known, although the government Turkey sent through the Bab al-Hawa[5] crossing to the Syrian side on the first day 340 victims on the first day of the earthquake, and on the second day another 800 victims, bringing the number of Syrian victims until February 16, 2023, to 1,556 victims, and unfortunately the largest number of missing Syrians to date is inside Turkey is completely unknown, they may be under the rubble, or lost, or dead.



Relief reality:


Countries around the world and non-profit organizations rushed to support those affected by the earthquakes, and international rescue teams deployed in Turkey from the first day, while the areas under the authority of the Syrian Interim Government and the Salvation Government were deprived the aid in the first four days of the disaster, while the Syrian regime stated to receive international aid on the third day of the earthquake.

This reality made us divide the reality of relief into four main areas, namely:



Turkish regions:


These afflicted Turkish regions received the largest share of aid, as rescue teams from many countries rushed to rescue those trapped under the rubble. Urgent aid was also sent to Syria and Turkey through Turkish airports, and the first of these was the aid announced by the White House[6] at a value of $85 million.


Most of the international rescue teams did not find opportunities to reach the place of damage on the first day, and some of them were delayed to the second and third days, due to cracked roads and institutional bureaucracy in securing entry and work permits.


The city of Antioch and its surroundings was the most affected area; however, the arrival of rescue teams was delayed until the second day of the earthquake, and the electricity supply and internet service were cut off in this city on the first day of the disaster, which made it difficult for the survivors to communicate with those trapped under the rubble.


And in the absence of fuel stations, the displacement of the residents of this city to other cities was very difficult, and costly, which made the poor groups, or those who left their homes without any financial resources forced to sleep in the open for several days, and heating has relied on cold nights on burning wood.


The Turkish army intervened alongside the emergency teams in evacuating civilians and removing the rubble, and this act contributed to an increase in rescue cases for many civilians trapped under the rubble. On February 17, 2023, the Turkish rescue teams were able to rescue a Turkish youth stuck under the rubble after 278 hours passed. An hour after the earthquake occurred, a Syrian family consisting of three members was rescued in the city of Antioch on February 18, 2023, that is, 296 hours after the earthquake, and this indicates the determination of the Turks to rescue all those trapped under the rubble, even with little hope of rescue.


Syrian refugees in Turkey were exposed, on the fifth and sixth day of the earthquake, to attacks from racist Turkish groups, as the Turkish racists sought to expel them from the camps that were built on Turkish lands, which indicates poor security performance and the spread of gangs, and this is indeed a negative point in the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


The total documented number of victims in Turkey on February 18, 2023, is 40,642, and the truth has not been clarified. Are all the victims of Turkish nationality or of Syrian nationality? This also indicates a state of chaos in the daily changing statistics.




Areas controlled by the Syrian Interim Government:


The employees of the Syrian Interim Government seemed lost in managing the earthquake crisis, as they were accustomed to receiving advice from the Turkish side before they took any administrative step in the areas under their authority, to the extent that the Interim Government and the National Army were unable to take a quick decision to enter fuel buses provided as humanitarian aid from Self-administration areas without the consent of the Turkish side.


Also, when the in-kind relief aid arrived in Jindires and other areas, the distribution process was unorganized, as those affected attacked the relief unorganized, which prompted the National Army members to shoot in the air to disperse those asking for aid, and this indicates the absence of organizations responsible for managing the distribution aid.


After the spread of videos documenting the extent of the destruction in these areas, the Iraqi clans rushed to coordinate a state of cooperation with the clans of Deir ez-Zur or Governorate, so 75 trucks loaded with relief were delivered on February 14, 2023, to those areas, and the assistance of the Arab clans was greater than that of the UN aid.


The United Nations sent 25 trucks[7], and this UN aid was intended to help from the damages of the war in Syria and not for the earthquake, and this indicates the absence of a UN fund dedicated to emergencies regarding conflicted areas such as Syria.


The defects of the United Nations were not less than the defects of the World Health Organization, as its director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus[8], published a video documenting the Aleppo-Damascus Highway that was not damaged by the earthquake, indicating that it is a disaster area, and this indicates that the health organization does not know anything about geography in Syria, or where the affected areas!



Areas under the Salvation Government:


These areas are actually under the authority of the radical regime "Al-Nusra", which changed its name to become the "Salvation Government[9]", which assigned the Ministry of Development headed by "Muhammad Al-Bashir" in the Salvation Government to distribute the international aid provided to the victims and the affected, so that the food ration or in-kind assistance is distributed based on documentation The family book, and each town was asked to count the number of damaged homes, the deceased, and the injured.


“The Salvation Government allows those wishing to aid organize and distribute their aid without coordination with the Ministry of Development, while the Ministry of Development monopolizes international aid.”


Certainly, the level of transparency is not achieved by the Salvation Government, due to media professionals not being allowed to document the distribution processes, and mobile phone photography by activists is also prohibited, and this certainly misses any opportunity to verify the fair distribution of aid.

These areas have witnessed a special state of popular solidarity, as citizens contributed to supplying mechanisms for free to the "White Helmets" organization, and citizens in areas where civil defense institutions were not present, contributed to digging and excavating manually to save the victims.


Weak resources and expertise, the international community's delay in sending mechanisms and experts, and the Turks' closure of the crossings in the first three days all exacerbated the catastrophe for the Syrians in this besieged area of the Syrian regime.


The Syrian regime, which received urgent aid from several countries, sent only a small part of this aid to this region, which is considered the most damaged in Syria, and the Turks restricted the entry of international aid from the Turkish crossings into this region to three Turkish organizations, namely Turkish Red Crescent[10]، International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)[11]، Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH)[12]Or for organizations that have a history of previous work and coordination with the Turkish crossings, and this has already limited the volume of aid to all areas of the Salvation Government and the Interim Government.




Areas controlled by the Syrian regime:


The population of the cities of Lattakia, Tartous, Banias, Jableh, and Aleppo used to live in their cars, because of their fears of aftershocks, which did not cease from the entire East Anatolian Temporal Fault[13] and although the destruction in these cities under the Syrian regime was not as large as the destruction in the areas under opposition control, the building damage has become frightening, in all neighborhoods, which prompted the municipal councils to send engineers to monitor the seriously damaged buildings, and their residents were evacuated until the restoration process took place.


The major dilemma is that the Syrian regime is unable to bear the cost of restoring the buildings, as the cost of restoring any column ranges from five million Syrian pounds, and this is certainly a large number because the average income of one family is 150,000 Syrian pounds.


This prompted private Syrian banks, "With most of their shares, to businessmen close to the president and his wife", to provide tax-free loans for a period of five years, to every person wishing to restore his home, and of course, this step aims to seize the homes of those who are unable to pay.


The trick of tax-exempt loans produced by the ruling regime ignored the international aid that poured into the Syrian regime from the Arab countries, the European Union countries, and the Russian Federation. Where many activists documented these thefts[14] with videos posted on social media[15].


Technically, the Syrian Red Crescent Organization[16] receives international aid, but this institution, although it is a partner of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva under Circular No. 375 of 1946, is not independent as a non-profit organization, because it is linked to the ruling regime in Damascus, which supervises administrative appointments in it. This made it a politicized organization to serve President al-Assad and his security services and his brother Maher al-Assad, and from here the Syrians do not feel safe towards this institution.


This prompted many activists to take individual action to distribute the donations they collect, but the security regime imposed on these activists to hand over that aid This prompted an activist to publish a video[17] explaining his rejection of the governorate’s decision that he must obtain a security permit before distributing the humanitarian aid that he collected himself.



Victim documentation:


The interim government, or the government of the Syrian regime, could not issue official, professional documentation on its part showing the number of victims, which made this task in the hands of non-profit organizations, such as the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and the Center for Environmental and Social Development, and the numbers of each organization varied according to the limit.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights[18], "known for its hostility to the Turkish government," stated on February 11, 2023, that the death toll is 5,273, of which 2,063 are in the areas of the Syrian regime, and 3,210 are in the areas of influence of the Salvation Government and the Syrian Interim Government, then it raised its numbers to become on February 18. 2023 is equivalent to 6,396 victims.


While the Syrian Network for Human Rights[19], "known for its respect for the Turkish government," announced on February 15, 2023, that it had recorded the death of 6,319 Syrians due to the earthquake, including 2,157 in areas outside the control of the Syrian regime, and 321 in areas controlled by the Syrian regime, and 3,841 Syrian in Turkey.


On February 13, 2023, the Syrian regime[20] stated that the number of earthquake victims in the Lattakia governorate reached 805 deaths and 1,131 injured, with 103 buildings demolished and 247 buildings in ruins. It is noteworthy that the Syrian regime did not include the number of victims in areas outside its control. The number of victims who were killed in his areas, as if he was referring to his abandonment of those areas, although he pledged to send international relief aid to those areas as soon as it reached him.


The Center for Environmental and Social Development stated on February 16, 2023, that the number of Syrian victims in the areas of the regime is 603 victims, and the number of destroyed buildings is 76, while the number of cracked buildings are in the thousands, and we cannot account it correctly.


The number of victims in the areas of the Interim Government and the Government of the rescue reached 2,804 victims, and the most destroyed areas are Jandiris, the villages of Jisr Al-Sha’er, and Harem area, where the number of destroyed buildings exceeded 1076 houses, while not a single house was without damage and side cracks.

Also, 1,556 victims arrived at the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey, which makes the total number of victims 4,963 victims.


In fact, this number is less than the figure announced by Agence France-Presse estimated at 5,800 victims, and it does not match any of the statistics of the Syrian Network for Human Rights or the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Human, or the Syrian regime.


From here, we realize that the general workers in the Syrian statistical affairs need some time to arrange the tables of victims and affected people.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svcBQdTR2LU

 [2] The East Anatolian Fault (EAF) in Turkey is a major active left-lateral strike-slip fault that was seismically active during the 19th century but mostly quiet during the 20th century. Geodetic data suggests that the fault is creeping along its central part, (Implications for the East Anatolian Fault seismic cycle, May 15, 2020) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0012821X20300959#:~:text=The%20East%20Anatolian%20Fault%20(EAF,creeping%20along%20its%20central%20part.

[3] Reuters 19 February 2023 https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/teenager-rescued-rubble-turkey-10-days-after-quake-2023-02-16/ 

[4] Al-Arabiya TV، 19 February 2023 https://www.alarabiya.net/arab-and-world/2023/02/18/%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%AF-%D8%B6%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D9%84%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%B9-46-%D8%A3%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%82%D8%AA%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7 

[5] The Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing is located on Syria–Turkey border about 50 km west of Aleppo in northwest Syria. It connects the Syrian M45 and the Turkish D827 highways, between the cities of İskenderun and Idlib.

[6] The Biden-⁠Harris Administration’s Response to the Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, FEBRUARY 10, 2023, White house, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/02/10/fact-sheet-the-biden-harris-administrations-response-to-the-earthquakes-in-turkiye-and-syria/ 

[7] Al-Arabiya TV 18 Feb23 https://www.alarabiya.net/arab-and-world/syria/2023/02/18/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%82-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D9%84%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%84

[8] @DrTedros) I've never in my life seen the level of destruction as I did on the road from Aleppo to Damascus. Skeletons of houses. Almost no people in sight. Over a decade of war has taken an unimaginable toll. Syrians need our support now and in years to come to rebuild their lives. https://twitter.com/DrTedros/status/1625415692152348674

 [9] The Syrian Salvation Government is a de facto alternative government of the Syrian opposition in Idlib Governorate, formed in early November 2017.

[10] https://www.kizilay.org.tr/about-us

[11] https://www.ifad.org/en/about

[12] https://ihh.org.tr/en/about-us 

[13] The East Anatolian Fault (EAF) in Turkey is a major active left-lateral strike-slip fault that was seismically active during the 19th century but mostly quiet during the 20th century. Geodetic data suggests that the fault is creeping along its central part, (Implications for the East Anatolian Fault seismic cycle, May 15, 2020) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0012821X20300959#:~:text=The%20East%20Anatolian%20Fault%20(EAF,creeping%20along%20its%20central%20part.

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr-7rbuex3g [15] https://


[16] منظمة الهلال الأحمر السوري، الموقع الرسمي https://sarc.sy/%d8%ad%d9%88%d9%84-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%85%d9%86%d8%b8%d9%85%d8%a9/ 

[17] BBC TV، Feb 10, 2023 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am-3tDsROHM 

[18] لمرصد السوري لحقوق الانسان، يوم 12Feb/2023 https://www.syriahr.com/%d8%a8%d8%b9%d8%af-%d8%aa%d9%88%d9%82%d9%81-%d8%b9%d9%85%d9%84%d9%8a%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a5%d9%86%d9%82%d8%a7%d8%b0-%d8%ad%d8%b5%d9%8a%d9%84%d8%a9-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ae%d8%b3%d8%a7%d8%a6%d8%b1/587483/ 

[19] الشبكة السورية لحقوق الانسان يوم 15 فبراير/ شباط 2023 https://snhr.org/arabic/2023/02/15/%d8%aa%d8%b3%d8%ac%d9%8a%d9%84-%d9%88%d9%81%d8%a7%d8%a9-6319-%d8%b3%d9%88%d8%b1%d9%8a-%d8%a8%d8%b3%d8%a8%d8%a8-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b2%d9%84%d8%b2%d8%a7%d9%84-%d9%85%d9%86%d9%87%d9%85-2157-%d9%81%d9%8a/ 

[20] وكالة سانا للأنباء الرسمية يوم 13 فبراير/ شباط 2023 https://www.sana.sy/?p=1839652

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