The United Nations General Assembly observed a minute’s silence on February 6 in memory of the victims of the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
At 9:17 on February 6, Beijing time, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey. Ahmed Owen Ercan, a Turkish earthquake expert, said on Twitter that the earthquake occurred at the junction of four major fault zones, with a power of about 130 atomic bombs that exploded for 43 seconds.
Within 24 hours, aftershocks continued, and even the level of aftershocks reached 7.8. 24 hours later, the British “Guardian” reported that at least 2,818 buildings collapsed in Turkey alone; more than 4,000 people were killed in the earthquake in Turkey and neighboring Syria.
The U.S. Geological Survey immediately warned that the death toll from this strong earthquake is likely to exceed 10,000. And this seems to be a more conservative prediction. The British “Guardian” reported that Smallwood, a senior emergency affairs officer in the European region of the World Health Organization, predicted that subsequent earthquakes would trigger further house collapses, and the death toll would usually reach 8 times the initial statistics. Based on this calculation, it is estimated that by around the 13th, the number of deaths may be more than 20,000.
On February 6, local time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech that the Turkish earthquake was the largest since 1939 in the country. According to historical data, the Erzincan earthquake in Turkey in 1939 killed 33,000 people. Then, the 1999 earthquake in Izmit, Turkey, killed more than 17,000 people.
Erdogan also announced seven days of national mourning in Turkey. The Turkish Ministry of Education announced the closure of schools at all levels across the country for a week.
A collapsed building is pictured in Malatya, Turkey, on February 6, 2023.
Above: On February 6, in Osmaniye Province, Turkey, a 10-year-old child was rescued from the ruins of a collapsed house after the local earthquake.
Various attitudes of the international community
The international community has different attitudes towards the Turkish earthquake and the casualties caused by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
On February 6, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent messages of condolence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad respectively for the strong earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Xi Jinping said that he was shocked to learn that a strong earthquake occurred in your country, causing heavy casualties and property losses. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, I would like to express deep condolences to the victims and sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the injured. I believe that under the leadership of Mr. President, the government and people of your country will be able to overcome the impact of the disaster as soon as possible and rebuild their homeland.
U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the death and destruction caused by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Biden said: “I have asked my team to coordinate with Turkey and continue to monitor the situation closely.” A statement from the White House emphasized Turkey’s status as a “NATO ally” and said that the United States is rapidly deploying relevant work to support Turkey’s search and rescue work and coordinate other assistance. But for the casualties in Syria, the White House statement does not seem to mention much, let alone what to say to the Syrian president.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is devoting a lot of energy to “special military operations” against Ukraine, also sent condolence messages to Erdogan and Assad respectively, and expressed that Russia is willing to provide necessary assistance to the two countries.
Ukrainian President Zelensky’s caliber is similar to that of Biden, only saying that he will provide necessary help to Turkey. In a Twitter post, Zelensky specifically emphasized, “At this moment, we stand with the friendly Turkish people.”
Compared with the United States, Europe’s attitude has its own subtleties. Because France once colonized Syria, it has always believed that it has “special obligations” to Syria. After the Damascus bombing in 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron went to condolences in person and had in-depth exchanges with the local people. Today, both Macron and German Chancellor Scholz have expressed that they will provide necessary help to Turkey and Syria. Before British Prime Minister Sunak had time to speak, Sweden, which had considerable conflicts with Turkey on joining NATO, offered an “olive branch” to Turkey. Swedish Prime Minister Christensson said that as the rotating presidency of the European Union and Turkey’s partner, Sweden is ready to provide support to Turkey at any time.
Action after statement. When local Chinese and overseas Chinese spontaneously organized disaster relief, raised tents, sleeping bags, blankets and other relief materials, and sent them to relevant Turkish departments within 24 hours, the Red Cross Society of China has decided to donate to the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Red Crescent Each will provide US$ 200,000 in emergency humanitarian cash assistance. At the same time, the Red Cross Society of China also stated that it will provide further humanitarian assistance depending on the situation.
The first batch of RMB 40 million in supplies from the China International Development Cooperation Agency has been sent to Turkey and Syria.
In addition, China’s first social rescue force, the Ram Rescue Team, dispatched the first International City Search and Rescue Team on February 7th, Beijing time. The team set off from Hangzhou to the most severely damaged area in Turkey by the earthquake.
A reporter from “Xinmin Weekly” learned from Anhui that multiple blue sky rescue teams in Xuancheng, Lu’an and other places were mobilized on the evening of the 6th Beijing time and started rescue reports. Su Chenglong, captain of the Blue Sky Rescue Team in Xuancheng City, said that the cross-border rescue was difficult. Before departure in China, it is necessary to apply for passports and arrange rescue equipment in a timely manner. At the same time, the most critical thing is to be familiar with the rescue location. The information sent by the meteorological department is that the temperature in the affected area is low, and there has been heavy snowfall in the area in the week since the earthquake. Bad weather will inevitably make the disaster worse.
When UN Secretary-General Guterres called on countries to dispatch rescue forces to support the disaster area, Japan, which has considerable experience in earthquake rescue, decided on February 6 to send an international emergency rescue team to help search and rescue missing people. The rescue team has 75 people, composed of the international fire rescue team and the Coast Guard staff. The first batch of 18 people left for the disaster area from Tokyo Haneda Airport late at night on the 6th.