Two massive earthquakes just hours apart struck cities and towns across southern Turkey and northwest Syria earlier this week, amassing a death toll of more than 20,000 as of writing. The recent tragedy is now one of the biggest natural disasters in the 21st century.
The movement of the tectonic plates along the fault captured by satellites at Nurdağı, Turkey, following the 6-7 February earthquakes. The relative shift is around 3-4 meters
[📷Andreas Schafer, Maxar Technologies]pic.twitter.com/jgk9rGkFlc
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) February 9, 2023
Boosting Rescue Efforts
The US Defense Department said Wednesday that the Pentagon issued an order to move the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) into the Mediterranean Sea near Turkey to boost rescue and recovery efforts. In addition, other US military assets such as search and rescue teams, C-17 cargo planes, and helicopters were also deployed to help with search and rescue operations around the affected region.
CVN-77, the flagship of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, recently ported in Greece, visiting Piraeus last week to enhance NATO Alliance and allow Sailors aboard “a chance to experience Greek culture,” the Navy said in a statement. The Strike Group supports regional operations of the US Sixth Fleet under the US Naval Force Europe-Africa ((NAVEUR-NAVAF).
The nuclear-powered supercarrier can accommodate more than 90 planes and helicopters and has a complement of more than 5,500 Sailors, homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
$85 Million Humanitarian Aid
In addition, the US will be sending water and medical supplies as part of the recovery efforts, as well as $85 million in urgent humanitarian assistance and a team of paramedics, emergency responders, hazardous material technicians, and others to both affected regions.
Turkey, the moment when a father covered his son with his body during a tragic earthquake. As it turned out, this saved his life, the son is alive pic.twitter.com/E5cAV16d0f
— Levandov (@blabla112345) February 9, 2023
Pulling a two-month-old baby alive after three days under the rubble in Turkey pic.twitter.com/1ePEIkZiDH
— Muhammad Smiry 🇵🇸 (@MuhammadSmiry) February 8, 2023
The day after the back-to-back destructive earthquakes, Pentagon said the US military had sent helicopters based at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base and were among the first responders. Then, on Thursday, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the monetary assistance shortly after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“This new funding is supporting USAID’s humanitarian partners to deliver urgently-needed aid for millions of people in Türkiye and in Syria,” USAID said in a statement.
The US will also send concrete breakers, generators, and tents, among many others.
Poor Construction Caused Catastrophe
Apart from the two powerful quakes, poor construction and negligence in building standards caused spine-chilling, widespread destruction that left thousands of people trapped in the rubble.
This is one of the most devastating videos I’ve seen come out of Turkey after the earthquake.
Rescue workers shout: “can anyone hear our voice?”
The silence that follows is gut wrenching. pic.twitter.com/sWSbVigb75
— Fatima (@fatimazsaid) February 8, 2023
According to reports, an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 buildings collapsed on Monday, with most built before 1999—the same year a 7.6 earthquake hit the Western Marmara region and killed tens of thousands of people.
Following the late 90s tragedy, Turkish officials began preparing for the next “big one” to prevent a repeat. However, it was easier said than done, as “many did not want to money on rebuilding work or reinforcements that did not seem urgent,” which makes experts conclude that the strong tremor on Monday quickly brought buildings with “sub-par materials and long-discredited construction techniques” down to ashes.