Turkey-Syria Earthquake: Death Toll Passes 41K; Aid Enters Newly-Opened Border Crossing

    Turkey-Syria Earthquake: Death Toll Passes 41K; Aid Enters Newly-Opened Border Crossing
    Last updated Feb 15, 2023
    Image credit: Reuters [via Washington Post]


    • One of the largest earthquakes to hit the region in nearly a century — with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale — has killed thousands of people, destroyed infrastructure, and leveled thousands of buildings after striking a week ago in southern Turkey and northern Syria.[1]
    • A second earthquake aftershock, registering a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale, in the same location near Gaziantep was also reported last Monday afternoon, less than 12 hours after the initial quake. With the numbers in flux and rising, total fatalities have surpassed 41K as of Wednesday evening local time.[2]
    • Transportation in the region has been severely restricted by the earthquake and local weather conditions. Aid has reached opposition-controlled northwestern Syria via the Bab al-Hawa crossing, but, after a recent agreement between the Syrian government and the UN, 11 trucks entered the region via the Bab al-Salameh crossing.[3]
    • Controversy and criticism of President Erdogan have continued to grow in Turkey in the earthquake's aftermath, including regarding the pace of response and alleged construction violations of building regulations. On Sunday, Turkey’s Justice Minister said that more than 130 people are being investigated over their apparent ties to collapsed buildings.[4]
    • Rescuers have been searching through the rubble to find survivors in both nations as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 23M people could be affected by the disaster. Tens of thousands of people have been reported injured.[5]
    • The areas of Syria most affected by the earthquakes are regions still mired by the country's ongoing civil war in which there is a massive population of internally displaced Syrians living in refugee camps along the Turkish border. As a result, aid delivery to certain regions has been unreliable and slow.[6]


    Narrative A

    This is the worst crisis to hit southern Turkey and northern Syria since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Besides the fact that this region is inundated with refugees, the earthquake comes in the middle of winter which is only compounding the suffering of those who were already suffering. The global community must step up quickly to help the people of Turkey and Syria.

    Narrative B

    Sadly, many impacts of this earthquake could have been lessened if only Turkish authorities had dealt seriously with supervising urban development in quake-prone areas, enforcing the mandatory earthquake-resistant design codes to buildings its legislation approved in 2000. There are two major fault lines along the Anatolian Plate, and earthquake mitigation is vital given the likelihood of catastrophic tremors.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    The US should not and will not work with a government that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people with barrel bombs, starvation sieges, and chemical weapons. US sanctions on Syria have a very minor effect on aid delivery, as such areas are excluded from the sanctions which largely target individuals and companies, and any possible hindrances have now been lifted. The US will do everything it can via the NGOs with which it has worked for years to provide Syrians with aid, but it will not assist Bashar al-Assad, Syria's dictator, after he destroyed his own country.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Though the US has lifted some sanctions, this is largely a superficial move to avoid criticism of its brutal sanctions regime. If sanctions weren't obstructing aid delivery, why did the US lift some of them? All routes from Turkey into the country's north have been destroyed, making it even more necessary for Western governments to work directly with the Syrian state to help alleviate this crisis. The West must lift all of these cruel sanctions.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that at least 77.1K will die as a result of the most deadly earthquake from 2020 - 2029, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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