Kahramanmaras earthquake displaced civilians, claimed lives, affected those connected to LC
On Feb. 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey & northern Syria. The earthquake took the lives of roughly 49,000 people and resulted in 125,500 injuries. This has been the worst earthquake in Turkey since the 526 Antioch earthquake. This natural disaster has affected a few members of the LC community.
Turkey sits on the border between the North Anatolian Fault that spans from west to east, and the East Anatolian Fault situated in the country’s southeastern region. The East Anatolian Fault is seismically quiet in comparison to the North Anatolian Fault, which has produced 11 earthquakes in the 20th century.
Thousands of people across the region were left homeless. Both Turkey and Syria have ongoing crises, such as civil war, lack of infrastructure funding and human rights violations, that have been exacerbated due to the earthquake. In Syria, 90% of the population relies on humanitarian aid as a result of the ongoing civil war, according to the Brookings Institution.
Salsabel Al-Masry ’25 has family connections who have been impacted by the earthquakes in Syria.
“When I heard there was an earthquake in Syria, I felt really bad for the people there and I have relatives living in Syria,” Al-Masry said. “I could not contact them until the third day of the earthquake. I have cousins in the northwest region and they are telling us that people are without food and without homes.”
Oregon-based organizations have been assisting those impacted by the crises. The Oregon Turkish Association is working overseas to send monetary and material donations, such as clothes and medical supplies to Turkey. Mercy Corps, based in Portland, has coordinated humanitarian aid in Syria for years. The group is currently working with non-governmental organizations workers in Northwest Syria.
Additionally, Asmaa Zaidan ’24 has ties to the town of Hama in northwestern Syria.
“Our ruins run deep there because my family have lived there for decades,” Zaidan said. “When the earthquake hit, it was devastating. We would have the news on. I was wondering if my friends were okay,”
The international response differed for both countries. According to the State Department, U.S. officials have regularly coordinated with Turkish officials and UN leadership to figure out how to best support those impacted.
In contrast, the U.S. sanctions against Syria relating to blocking banks and payment processors resulted in suspension of international charities and families donating money to those in need. The Syrian Red Crescent urged Western countries to lift the sanctions, claiming that they do more harm than good in this time of crisis.
In response, the U.S. announced that it would exempt the sanctions for 180 days.
“Politics has played a really big role in this,” Al-Masry said. “Countries are seeing that we (Syria) have conflict and should not receive that much help. There was an earthquake, people were impacted, lots died, their houses have been completely destroyed and nobody has helped them. We are not talking about politics. We are talking about humans, mostly kids.”