Illustration by Gulsim Azirakhmet

Syria-Turkey Earthquake: Death toll surpasses 20,000 victims

On Monday, Feb. 6, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Turkey and Syria. Here is a summary of the international response to the catastrophe, the death toll, the national response, and the challenges both countries face regarding humanitarian aid.

Feb 12, 2023

On Feb. 6, at around 4 a.m., an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck southeastern parts of Turkey and northwestern parts of Syria. The affected cities include Gaziantep, Kilis, and Hatay in Turkey, and Aleppo and Hama in Syria. As of Feb. 6, more than 200 aftershocks were registered by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The magnitude of the earthquake as well as the number and magnitude of the aftershocks make this one of the strongest and deadliest earthquakes in the Levant.
Turkish first responders were immediately dispatched on the site, later in the day aid teams from Bulgaria, Romania, Iraq, and Iran arrived. Teams from India, Japan, and the United States were also sent on the same day, and Australia and New Zealand pledged $11 million for aid. Doctors without Borders are providing aid in the areas in Syria most impacted by the earthquake. The European Union also activated a swift crisis response mechanism to support both countries. Currently, rescue teams from Russia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and Algeria are also working with the international crews on site.
As of Friday, Feb. 10, the death toll has surpassed 20,000 victims despite WHO’s initial predictions that the initial number of 3400 could be eight times as larger.
The weather conditions and extreme amount of debris make the areas difficult to reach. Still, as of Feb. 9, Turkey opened two more border points for UN aid to pass to war-torn Syria.
With the continuous rise of the death toll and the unusual amount of destroyed buildings, people are starting to question Turkey’s system of disaster management. Media are looking into the cases of newly constructed apartment buildings and why they collapsed if they followed updated construction standards. There are speculations of severe corruption schemes within construction companies. In Syria, the buildings were already vulnerable and further destabilized by military actions in the region. Engineers have also been dispatched onsite to assist with locating survivors.
The World Bank has announced it will provide $1.87 billion in aid for recovery and relief to Turkey. Other countries have also allocated resources to help with the rebuilding efforts. The rescue and recovery efforts in Syria, however, are slowed down due to imposed sanctions on the country. Leaders of the EU, UN, and other political unions have started discussions on the matter.
The situation continues to develop and seismologists are monitoring for more aftershocks.
Yana Peeva is Senior Columns Editor. Email her at
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