The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday has claimed more than 20,000 lives so far and left thousands more injured. The natural disaster destroyed thousands of buildings in both countries, and hundreds of people are believed to be trapped under the rubble.
Centered on the province of Kahramanmaras in southeastern Turkey, the powerful earthquake was felt as far away as Cairo and Beirut. It has been the highest magnitude earthquake recorded in Turkey since 1939.
Erol Yayboke, director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, told Yahoo News that Turkey is an earthquake-prone place. Many buildings in that country, he said, were not built to withstand such a powerful quake.
“You have to have, much like in San Francisco, you have to have a certain amount of earthquake-proofing in your construction, and that is not always the case in Turkey,” Yayboke, who grew up in that country, said. “This leveling of buildings and the number of buildings that have been leveled and you see photos of one building collapsing and the other not collapsing, well, that’s a direct result of contractors cutting corners of, you know, inspectors not inspecting,” he added.
The earthquake’s greatest impact occurred in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death toll in his country had risen to at least 16,546 in what he called “the disaster of the century.”
In Syria, the earthquake struck a region that has been already affected by more than a decade of civil war. The total number of deaths in that country climbed to at least 3,317 on Thursday. This includes 1,970 deaths in rebel-held areas in the northwest. According to Syrian state media, another 1,347 deaths have been reported in government-controlled parts of Syria.
The cold weather in the region and damaged roads have made the rescue and recovery efforts difficult in both Turkey and Syria. Thousands of those who survived are also struggling due to a lack of shelter, food and water.
Here’s how you can help
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR, which is accepting donations here, is already on the ground in Syria providing emergency supplies including tents, thermal blankets, winter clothes and mattresses. On Thursday, the first United Nations convoy, comprised of six trucks carrying emergency aid, crossed into northern Syria via the Bab al-Hawa crossing.
UNICEF. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has also mobilized and has staff helping children affected by the earthquake in both Turkey and Syria. You can support this organization by making a donation here.
The White Helmets. This organization, also known as Syria Civil Defense, is a humanitarian aid group that operates in rebel-controlled areas of Syria. The White Helmets said it has 3,000 volunteers on the ground searching for survivors and pulling the dead from collapsed buildings. They have asked for donations to support their recovery efforts, which include finding survivors and transporting hundreds of injured people to hospitals.
Syrian American Medical Society. This international medical relief organization has provided medical assistance to victims of war in northwestern Syria. The group has now set up an earthquake relief fund and has teams on the ground providing medical assistance to those affected by the quake.
The International Federation of Red Cross. The IFRC said on Monday it was “launching immediate cash assistance” from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to help relief efforts in both Turkey and Syria. The IFRC is providing shelter, food and water, and mental and physical health services to quake victims. You can support the IFRC by donating here.
Doctors Without Borders. The humanitarian medical aid group said its staff is providing medical supplies and support to 23 hospitals in Syria. Emergency teams are also assessing the needs in southern Turkey and are ready to provide assistance, according to the organization. You can donate to Doctors Without Borders here.