Over 41,000 people are now confirmed dead in the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6.
Rescue efforts have been going on as fast as possible since the disaster, with Turkey checking buildings for stability and rescue crews pulling people out who are trapped under rubble.
Many lives have been saved in Turkey and in parts of Syria, but the situation is especially tragic in the northwest of Syria, which is mostly controlled by rebel factions.
The vast majority of the territory hasn’t even been checked for survivors; many more are feared dead.
Trapped and Out of Time
As of this writing, 95% of northwest Syria hasn’t been searched for survivors following the deadly earthquake. There could be thousands more dead, but there aren’t enough volunteers and rescue groups on the ground in the rebel-controlled areas.
On the other hand, Turkey has already safety-checked 15,000 of the 19,000 large structures in the area where the earthquake hit, as well as 370,000 commercial properties and 1.8 million residential houses.
Syria has also had a harder time getting international money and aid since western countries, including the US, have been trying to ensure aid money doesn’t also go to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
He controls access to the rebel-held areas. Aid agencies are worried he will steal and divert resources being sent to the damaged northwest areas.
The US tried to topple Assad during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which resulted in over 13.5 million refugees leaving the country and 610,000 deaths.
Western aid agencies have been getting money and help into Syria, but it’s trickled in much more slowly than into Turkey.
It’s also been especially hard to get money and rescue workers to rebel-held areas as well, due in part to limited access being opened up by Assad and the main road being badly destroyed by the war.
There is also the issue of the patchwork nature of the local leadership and lack of centralized command/control, as well as stability.
When it comes to saving lives, there are no excuses. Here's a photo of my friend, the White Helmet Hassan. He specializes in clearing unexploded ordnance but is now helping to save civilians after the #earthquake in northwest #Syria, even despite his injury. pic.twitter.com/LKM20FapX9
— Mousa Zidane (@Zidane084) February 13, 2023
Assad Begs for Help
Assad has been begging for help, saying the “available resources” in Syria aren’t even close to being able to do what is needed.
Though even as some help comes in to affected Syrians under government control, the rebel-controlled zones say they haven’t gotten nearly enough help and are freezing in cold temperatures, dying of cholera.
It’s very unlikely there will still be survivors so long after the earthquake. There isn’t enough large machinery to sort through much of the wreckage, but groups like the White Helmets are still trying to help.
Members like Yasser Nini said they can hear screaming under the piles of collapsed buildings, but don’t have the massive excavators and tractors required to pull away concrete slabs and wreckage and rescue people.
Nini complained other countries don’t “care” about the 4.4 million in northwest Syria who were already mercilessly slaughtered by Assad, Russia, and Iranian militias during the civil war.
Now, northwest Syria is becoming less of a priority as the chance of survivors decreases. There’s a real danger of it spiraling into an even worse humanitarian catastrophe if nothing is done.
Already 90% of its residents rely on international food aid and are barely hanging on. The damage of the earthquake is a horrible additional tragedy.
Deaths from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria have surpassed 36,000.
Rescuers are "digging with our nails" to reach survivors — some still being found after 7 days under rubble.
But the UN warns deaths may eventually double, and survivors in northwest Syria "feel abandoned." pic.twitter.com/xtwiRbMdRt
— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 13, 2023
The Bottom Line
More needs to be done for the people of northwest Syria. More pressure needs to be put on aid agencies to push past Assad and get those people the help they need.This article appeared in FreshOffThePress and has been published here with permission.