“There are not enough words to describe the tragedy here,” laments Melih Özdemir, of Gaziantep’s Foreign Affairs Department. With its enormous impact and growing death toll, the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on the morning of 6 February has seen cities around Turkey, Europe and the world scramble to assist.
“Gaziantep is one of the cities affected the most due to the earthquake,” says Özdemir, calling for people to send warm clothes, sleeping equipment and hygiene products to the area.
Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, suffered a large earthquake three years ago, during the Covid pandemic. Though not at the same scale as the current tragedy, the event left many in the city with bitter experiences of suffering and loss. “I went to the bank for 10 minutes, and 10 minutes later, my husband was under the wreckage,” recalls Izmir resident Hatice Baltırak, who is now helping to coordinate aid for Gaziantep, as reported by the Daily Sabah.
Earthquake aid being sorted in Izmir
The sudden unexpectedness of the recent earthquake, which was far more severe than any the area has seen for the last 200 years, and its occurring in the middle of the night contributed to the extra-ordinary death toll, reports the BBC. Now the winter weather is severely hampering the emergency response.
“It is a real disaster where the terrible weather conditions are not allowing aid and donations to be addressed to the area and to the people,” says Ercan Türkoğlu, from Izmir’s Metropolitan Municipality.
Within the first two days of the disaster, Izmir’s locals and municipality had already organised 150 transit trucks, 50 other trucks, two ships and one airplane “full of vital equipment” to travel to the affected region.
Until this morning, we have sent humanitarian aid packages to earthquake zone with 11 transporters, 2 planes and a ship.
45 thousand blankets and quilts, 3 thousand heaters, 3 thousand sleeping bags, 65 thousand clothes and tons of humanitarian aid will have reached the region. pic.twitter.com/0JqK9aujwk
— Tunç Soyer (@soyertunc_en) February 7, 2023
“İzmir is working 24 hours to get support to the region,” Türkoğlu says, and Izmir’s Mayor, Mustafa Tunç Soyer “is already in the disaster region.” Tunç Soyer is overseeing not only the delivery of much needed supplies to the area, including 45,000 blankets and quilts and 3,000 heaters to help the survivors see through the freezing nights, but also a mobile kitchen prepared to distribute 100,000 meals and a mobile surgery to deliver emergency medical support.
The Municipality of Kadikoy also reacted swiftly, immediately sending its local search and rescue team BAK Kadikoy to the site of the destruction. The team rescued 17 people from the rubble, including two who were just 16 months and three years years old.
Kadikoy’s Mayor Şerdil Dara Odabaşı went to the region and examined the work on site. In addition, mobile kitchens and mobile food trucks belonging to the Municipality of Kadikoy started distributing hot meals in the disaster area. In the aid campaign initiated by the municipality, 43 trucks have delivered 33,119 aid parcels to the region so far.
Kadikoy’s search and rescue team have even found a new family for a 5-year-old Alaskan Malamute dog named Bella, whose home was destroyed during the earthquake.
In neighbouring Greece, many municipalities, including Athens and Thessaloniki, have launched aid campaigns. As well as sending material aid, cities such as Sofia are also sending municipality emergency teams that can help locals coordinate and deal with the devastation.
Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence and President of Eurocities, has been in contact with Gaziantep to offer support appropriate to local needs. “The news that reached us is terrible,” Nardella says, pledging to send “food, equipment and personnel,” to the area.
Dolorose le immagini che arrivano dalle zone colpite dal terremoto. L’abbraccio di tutta Firenze giunga al popolo turco e a quello siriano in queste ore drammatiche. Siamo pronti ad aiutare. https://t.co/nJEsPtGmVP
— Dario Nardella (@DarioNardella) February 6, 2023
City-to-city emergency support is something that we have seen a lot of in recent years, from European cities sending money and medical supplies to Chinese cities at the outbreak of Covid (a gesture that was reciprocated once the pandemic reached Europe) to Eurocities’ #GeneratorsOfHope campaign that has followed EU cities helping their Ukrainian counterparts weather the winter by sending generators.
This latest tragedy has shown that the ties binding local administrations across national and political borders remain as strong as ever.
The metropolitan municipality of Izmir has set up an aid campaign for victims of the earthquake to send supplies to ten cities in Turkey, which can be accessed here: https://umuthareketi.izmir.bel.tr/