Earthquake: international aid arrives in Turkey, but what to do in Syria?

People remove furniture and household appliances from a building that collapsed after the earthquake, in Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria, Tuesday, February 7, 2023. AP - Ghaith Alsayed

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5 mins

The toll continues to grow in Turkey and Syria after the terrible earthquake.

The latest still provisional assessment announced Tuesday evening reported more than 7,800 dead (5,894 in Turkey and 1,932 dead in Syria).

International aid is mobilized for Turkey, but for Syria, it is very complicated.

Access to this country at war, where multiple actors are involved, is difficult.


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The first foreign rescue teams have arrived in Turkey.

According to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who declared a state of emergency for three months in the ten affected provinces, 45 countries have offered their help since the earthquake.

The European Union mobilized 1,185 rescuers and 79 search dogs.

US President Joe Biden has promised Mr. Erdogan " 

all the necessary help, whatever it is 


Two American detachments of 79 first aiders each prepared.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia are mobilized.

As for China, it announced the sending of aid of 5.9 million dollars, including emergency workers specialized in urban areas, medical teams and equipment.

Even Ukraine at war has announced the dispatch to Turkey of 87 rescue workers.

The weather complicates the rescue task and makes the situation of the survivors very difficult in Turkey.

The Kahramanmaras region, which is not very accessible, is covered in snow.

But in Syria too, hundreds of people remain trapped.

Doctors find themselves alone, hospitals lack beds.

"We welcome any help that comes our way"

RFI was able to reach a doctor who works in Idleb.

Dr. Mohamed Abrash is a surgeon and describes the situation there.

I am still in Idleb and I am still alive, thank God.

The earthquake was terrible.

You know, it happened yesterday, in the middle of the night at 4 o'clock in the morning.

The situation is very bad.

A lot of buildings have collapsed and we have a lot of bodies under the rubble, and also people who need to be rescued.

The white helmets, the rescue workers, are always hard at work trying to get people out of there.

We had a lot of bodies that were transported to different hospitals in northwestern Syria.

And these hospitals are also all occupied by the survivors of this earthquake.

Dr. Mohamed Abrash, surgeon in Idlib city

Murielle Paradon

The surgeon appeals for help, because the hospitals lack everything, he confirms.

We receive a lot of wounded who need to be operated on urgently.

We lack certain doctors, neurosurgeons, while many people need an intervention.

We also lack medical equipment, and in intensive care, we need oxygen, medicine, respirators.

We only have two hospitals in the Idleb region that have these specialties.

And then, doctors lack equipment regarding fractures, there are many people who suffer from fractures.

I don't know if Turkey will allow aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, but we welcome any help that comes our way.

Dr. Mohamed Abrash appeals for help

Murielle Paradon

Already ravaged by war, Syria needs help

The earthquake hit this crossing point of Bab al-Hawa, the only one for almost all the humanitarian aid to the rebel areas in Syria sent from Turkey.

A passage contested by Damascus and Moscow, and whose opening was fiercely negotiated under the aegis of the United Nations.

The Syrian Red Crescent called on the EU to lift the sanctions against Damascus and requested assistance from the American USAID.

The head of Syrian diplomacy appealed for international aid, assuring that this aid would be sent to everyone, including in areas beyond its control.

But for the time being in Syria, the appeal launched by the authorities in Damascus has been heard above all by its Russian ally, who has promised rescue teams " 

in the next few hours 

", while according to Moscow, more than 300 Russian soldiers are already on the scene to help the emergency services.

Russian soldiers and members of the Syrian security forces inspect collapsed buildings in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, after the earthquake.

AP - Omar Sanadiki

Delicate to trust the regime of Bashar al-Assad

Because from the point of view of Western governments and humanitarian organizations, it is a puzzle: how to help Syria, ravaged by twelve years of war and where multiple protagonists still clash?

The Aleppo region, for example, is under government control.

As for that of Idleb, it is controlled this time by rebel and jihadist groups.

Few international humanitarian organizations are present there.

The delivery of aid can be done, but through a single crossing point, that of Bab el-Hawa precisely, on the Turkish border.   

In the material assessment of the earthquake, it should be noted that several archaeological sites were also affected in Syria, in particular the citadel of Aleppo, several centuries old, its old town, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The exact extent of the damage is not known.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck Monday at 4:17 a.m. local time in southeastern Turkey.

It was felt as far away as Lebanon, Cyprus and northern Iraq.

It was followed by 185 aftershocks, including one of 7.5 on Monday at midday, and another of 5.5 on Tuesday before dawn.


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  • Natural disasters

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