Turkey and Syria are currently enduring the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that left both nations in complete devastation.
“We’ve done a bit of mapping of the size of the affected area, it’s the size of France,” said the director of disasters, climate, and crises at the International Federation of the Red Cross, Caroline Holt, to CNN.
“We haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes,” said Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Security-General.
The World Health Organization estimated up to 23 million people could be impacted by the disaster. More than 100 aftershocks have been recorded within a day and a half following the initial earthquake, one of which had a magnitude of 7.5.
As of last Friday more than 22,000 deaths have been reported. While Turkey has experienced earthquakes in the past, citizens are angry that the government doesn’t have a more solid preparation plan in place that could’ve protected more people.
Ajay Chhibber, an economist who was World Bank director for Turkey, told CNN that “it’s like a bad movie [that’s] coming back again. Similar to this week’s event, a past 1999 earthquake tremor struck in the early hours but it occurred in the country’s northwest – a densely populated area closer to Istanbul. It lasted around 45 seconds, leaving more than 17,000 dead and an estimated 500,000 people homeless.”
More than 6,000 buildings have collapsed. Chhibber stated that “Turkey is capable of moving very, very swiftly if they can get their act together on this.”
Ismail Baris, professor of social work at Istanbul’s Uskudar University and former mayor of Golcuk at the time of the quake, told CNN that “in addition to the collapsed private and public buildings, the city’s water transport pipes, water supply network, sewage system [and] storm water system were completely destroyed, as well as 80% of the city’s roads.”
“Across the border in Syria, rebuilding efforts will be even more complicated. Syrians face“nightmares on top of nightmares, and the World Food Program has described the situation in the northwest of the country as a catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” Guterres warned this past weekend.
“We have the perfect humanitarian storm in Syria,” said Caroline Holt.
Pre-earthquake, the UN has estimated that more than 4 million people were already dependent on humanitarian aid due to the civil war which has been impacting Syria since 2011. “After 12 years of constant pain, suffering and living in a vulnerable context, your ability to withstand – especially in winter – the harsh conditions that you’re facing [is diminished],” Holt told CNN.
“The conflict – or conflicts – are much worse in that area of Syria than in that area of Turkey,” said Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London.
“While Turkey has political problems of its own, they do have a comparatively strong government and comparatively strong military in comparison to Syria, which is at war. Turkey also has greater pre-earthquake resources. Neither country is especially rich, but Turkey at least has that baseline where they’ve not been in a major conflict dividing the country for 12 years. They have not been isolated through sanctions,” Kelman said.
“While disasters like this wreak havoc, they also create opportunities to prevent such havoc being wrought again. There is a man-made part of every natural disaster,” according to Chhibber.
“We do have examples where people have taken the opportunity to say there has been a disaster, and we want to help people, so let’s try to reconstruct in such a way that we are supporting peace. At the moment, I do not see either government responding in that way, and I do not see the world responding in that way,” Kelman said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.