Oxfam humanitarian teams – along with partner organisations in Turkey and Syria – are assessing the fastest, most appropriate way to help affected people in the aftermath of Monday’s devastating earthquake – the biggest in Turkey since 1938.
Turkish authorities have launched an official search-and-rescue mission, asking specifically for mountaineers to help. An Oxfam colleague in Turkey has responded to the call as an expert amateur mountaineer.
Meryem Aslan, Oxfam spokesperson in Ankara, said: “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.” She managed to reach family and friends in affected areas by phone – thankful they were alive and well – but many buildings and home were now rubble, she said.
Oxfam in Turkey has partnerships with around 80 women’s cooperatives in ten Turkish provinces that have been most affected by the quake. Given the scale of devastation, Oxfam is currently assessing response plans with them.
“Not only do survivors have to deal with the tragedy before them, but they also have to cope with the extreme cold. It will be impossible for survivors to sleep outside. It’s horrifying to contemplate the days ahead, given that some areas are even now in snow,” said Aslan.
“Reaching survivors will be extremely challenging with many roads and highways damaged or blocked, and over vast distances. Even as Turkey has a lot of expertise in dealing with earthquakes, the scale of the aftermath is daunting. The death toll has already reached over 7,000 people and is growing. The number of survivors who maybe left now with absolutely nothing is likely to be huge,” she said.
“Typically, Oxfam and partners would look to provide protection, water and sanitation, shelter and food support and in the longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. We are now assessing the type of immediate and longer-term support that is needed.
“We know that all countries affected by this awful earthquake, and the survivors of it, will need a lot of help and support – not only in the immediate short-term, but in the days and weeks and months ahead.”
In Syria, the cities of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Idlib have been badly hit by both the earthquake and continuous, severe aftershocks that have driven people into wintery streets fearing further collapses of buildings. Dozens of buildings have been badly damaged across Aleppo and 46 are reported to have collapsed. As nightly temperatures are expected to drop to zero degrees Celsius. Shelter, food, water, fuel and medical care for those who have been injured are desperately needed.
For Syria, this earthquake hits at a time when the humanitarian need is at its highest in the country. Over 15 million people are in desperate need humanitarian assistance and support.