U.S. Military officials said Tuesday that the United States European Command has begun sending aid to Turkey and Syria after two massive earthquakes rocked both nations within the past 24 hours, killing thousands of people.
“Using a whole of government approach, we remain in close contact with our Turkish Ally to determine what assistance is needed to help those affected by the disaster,” Marine Lt. Col. Garron J. Garn said in a statement to Military Times.
Two earthquakes, which reached 7.8 and 7.5 magnitudes, devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, leaving an estimated 3,000 structures destroyed and approximately 7,200 people dead.
Around 1,500 have been found dead in Syria, and more than 5,400 were killed in Turkey as rescue workers continue to search for survivors following the worst natural disaster to hit the region since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake that killed more than 30,000 people.
The region is situated on major fault lines. In the area affected by the earthquake, the dire situation is compounded by the presence of millions of refugees displaced by years-long civil war in Syria who were taking refuge on both sides of Turkey and Syria’s border.
Garn said the command is coordinating with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, and other U.S. interagency partners to establish what capabilities are needed and available to support requests by the government of Turkey.
President Joe Biden told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey the United States stands ready to provide “any and all needed assistance” to the NATO Ally in response to the tragedy.
Biden said that “U.S. teams are deploying quickly to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and coordinate other assistance that may be required by people affected by the earthquakes, including health services or basic relief items,” a readout of Biden’s conversation with Erdogan said on February 6.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the U.S. Air Force have sent the first round of aid from Dover, Delaware.
“Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron processed U.S. humanitarian assistance Feb. 7, 2023, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, in support of search and rescue efforts in [Turkey],” according to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Facebook page.
President Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 provinces on Tuesday that were impacted by the devastating earthquakes.
“We have decided to declare a state of emergency to ensure that our [rescue and recovery] work can be carried out quickly,” Erdogan said, Al Jazeera reported.
The Epoch Times reported that international aid for Turkey and Syria in the Damascus region has poured in from all over the world.
Teams from Netherlands, U.K., and Romania have dispatched crews to Turkey, while Israel, Germany, and France have reportedly said they would also offer assistance. India sent a 99-member medical team with X-ray machines, an oxygen generation plant, and cardiac monitors to set up a 30-bed medical facility.
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, according to NBC, that a team of 77 British search and rescue personnel arrived in the city of Gaziantep in Turkey today with specialist equipment and dogs in response to a request from the Turkish government and would start assisting with the rescue effort.
World Health Organization (WHO) officials warned that the death toll could rise to approximately 20,000 as rescue teams continue search operations in the coming days.
“It’s now a race against time. Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing Tuesday.
Zach Jewell contributed to this report.