After quakes, getting international aid to Turkey-Syria region is nearly impossible

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Rescuers search through rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake, in the rebel-held town of Sarmada, Syria, February 6, 2023 in this still image obtained from a drone footage. Credit: WHITE HELMETS/Handout via REUTERS.

A pair of devastating earthquakes rocked the border region between Turkey and Syria early this morning. Thousands are dead, and countless more are injured. The first quake was 7.8 magnitude and struck as people slept. It was one of the strongest to hit the region in nearly a century, and tremors were felt as far away as Israel and Lebanon. The second quake came hours later. Both were centered in southeast Turkey, but the road ahead will be particularly difficult in Syria, which has been devastated by civil war.

“This is a region … that has borne the brunt of 12 years of horrendously brutal conflict. For … listeners who may have been paying attention to the war in Ukraine for the past year, imagine living through 12 years of Ukraine, and that is the scale of war that they have witnessed, and now to be struck by really a catastrophic earthquake,” says Charles Lister, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Institutes Syria Program. 

He continues, “This was a region where 65% of the basic infrastructure was already destroyed or heavily damaged, where the medical sector has been repeatedly hit by targeted airstrikes by the Syrian regime for the past 10 years. And now they have thousands of buildings leveled to the ground, thousands of casualties, both dead and wounded. And the only actors capable of responding are the White Helmets, which are frankly a small NGO with 2000 volunteer staff. And the ability of the international community to get in is almost zero at this point. So it is absolutely the worst-case possible nightmare scenario for all of the people living there.”



  • Charles Lister - senior fellow and director of the Middle East Institutes Syria Program


Michell Eloy