One Week After Quake, Relief Efforts Stymied by Lack of Supplies and Housing

One week after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, shortages of key materials slowed relief efforts even as international aid poured in, and hospitals struggled to care for the large numbers of people requiring urgent help. The death toll for both countries surpassed 35,000 on Monday, with more than a million people in Turkey alone left homeless.

The Turkish Red Crescent, a humanitarian organization, said it was speeding up the production of tents to house those displaced after Turkish new media reported a shortage of temporary housing and of poor sanitary conditions for the homeless.

As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey came under criticism for his government’s response to the earthquake, the country’s deadliest since 1939, Turkish officials on Monday detained more property developers and others suspected of having a hand in shoddy construction that violated existing building codes, according to the state-run Anadolu News Agency.

One of the latest people to be detained was Ibrahim Mustafa Uncuoglu, a contractor of a collapsed building in the southern city of Gaziantep, Anadolu reported. Bekir Bozdag, Turkey’s justice minister, said on Sunday that legal proceedings against more than 130 people were underway over their apparent ties to collapsed buildings.

The death tolls in Turkey, where more than 31,600 people have died, and in northwestern Syria, where more than 3,500 people have died, have been steadily climbing ever since the 7.8-magnitude quake struck a week ago. While aid is arriving in Turkey, it has been a struggle to get enough quick relief into Syria, which has been carved up into different zones of control by a 12-year civil war that is still continuing.

Deadly Quake in Turkey and Syria

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 6, with its epicenter in Gaziantep, Turkey, has become one of the deadliest natural disasters of the century.

  • Near the Epicenter: Amid scenes of utter devastation in the ancient Turkish city of Antakya, thousands are trying to make sense of an earthquake that left them with no home and no future.
  • Construction Violations: Survivors and experts say poor construction most likely exacerbated the scale of the quake’s destruction. The Turkish government has responded by arresting contractors with ties to collapsed buildings.
  • A Disaster Within a Disaster: For some Syrians living as refugees in Turkey as well as those still back home, the quake’s destruction was far worse than anything they had seen in more than a decade of civil war.
  • In Their Own Words: Thousands of people have been killed, and dozens of cities have been gutted. Here is how witnesses described the disaster.

An anonymous Pakistani donor who walked into the Turkish Embassy in the United States gave $30 million for earthquake victims, according to Shehbaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, who said Sunday on Twitter that he was “deeply moved” by the contribution.

“These are such glorious acts of philanthropy that enable humanity to triumph over the seemingly insurmountable odds,” Mr. Sharif wrote.

The earthquake zone in Syria includes areas controlled by the government and other areas held by opposition forces backed by Turkey.

The government-held parts of Syria have received air shipments including food, medical equipment and fuel from the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Iran and Russia, according to the state-run Syrian news agency SANA.

But very little of the overall aid has reached opposition-held parts of northern Syria because of political divisions on the ground after years of civil war.

The Syrian government has tightly controlled what aid it allows into opposition-held areas, and Bab al-Hawa, the only border crossing between Turkey and Syria approved by the United Nations for transporting international aid into northwestern Syria, has been a lifeline for opposition-held areas in the north.

The U.N. said it was trying to negotiate access to parts of Syria with groups controlling opposition-held areas.

At least 10 trucks loaded with supplies from the International Organization for Migration, a U.N. agency, crossed the border to Syria from Turkey on Sunday, the United Nations said. It was the fourth aid convoy to cross the border since the earthquake struck a week ago, but recovery efforts have been stymied by lack of machinery and vehicles and lack of fuel, as well as aftershocks, which are reportedly continuing in northwestern Syria and forcing people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

In Turkey, heavy damage to the Port of Iskenderun, a key point for getting supplies to Turkey and Syria, was also hampering efforts to get the necessary supplies to earthquake victims, said Murat Aymelek, an assistant professor in marine engineering at Iskenderun Technical University.

Even as search-and-rescue teams were winding down their operations and focusing on removing debris and recovering bodies, there were occasional stories of people still being pulled alive from the rubble.

Back to top button