Newsletters & Press

February 2023

Special edito : earthquakes in Turkey

On Monday, February 6, southeastern Turkey and northern Syria were hit by two devastating earthquakes, one occurring overnight at 4:17 a.m. with a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale ; another at 1:24 p.m. with a magnitude of 7.4. 15 days later, the earth shook again on the evening of Monday February 20 with two earthquakes of magnitude 6.4 and 5.8 which once again shook the already devastated province of Hatay (Antioch), on the edge of the Mediterranean.

The provisional toll was over 44,000 dead (including Turkey and Syria) and over 110,000 injured. The hope of finding survivors is now almost nil. According to AFAD (Disaster Management Agency), more than 6,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the first earthquake on February 6.

A total of 10 provinces in southeastern Turkey have been affected. The power of the tremors was such that they were felt as far away as Greenland. The extent of the earthquakes covers an area of 500 km2 or the distance between Paris and Amsterdam. The provinces of Gaziantep, Hatay and Malatya appear to be the most affected. Much of Gaziantep Castle, a historic UNESCO World Heritage Site, a structure built in 3600 B.C. that had remained intact despite various waves of invasion and conquest and changing hands, was destroyed .

Turkish authorities have declared official mourning for a period of seven days (February 6-12, 2023) and a state of emergency in the disaster areas for three months.

After these terrible earthquakes, it was urgent to organize first aid to extricate the survivors from the rubble in particularly difficult weather conditions (freezing cold, bad weather, etc.) which made the task of rescuers extremely complex. Access to the disaster areas was even impossible in some places due to material damage (collapse of buildings, blocked roads...) caused by the earthquakes. The survivors were evacuated to public buildings (schools and sports establishments, town halls, etc.) and hotels, while some of the injured were transferred to health establishments located in other cities for treatment.

A huge surge of solidarity immediately took place. NGOs, foundations, associations, individuals... all have jointly contributed to quickly come to the aid of survivors and victims.

At the national level, sending basic necessities (food, hygiene products, baby diapers, blankets, etc.), medical equipment, tents, stoves, etc. was the priority. Several appeals for donations were launched and a program broadcast jointly on 8 Turkish TV channels raised 6.3 billion EUR in just a few hours. This sum will be used to build new housing for earthquake survivors.

159,146 people have been deployed to the affected areas, including 7,716 from abroad. Among these relief teams, the largest contingents come from Azerbaijan, Israel, India and France. A total of 94 countries participated in the search and humanitarian aid.

At least 77 field hospitals have been set up to facilitate the reception of the wounded in the disaster areas. Several of these hospitals have been deployed by foreign countries.

On February 10, France deployed a large-capacity EMT2 (Emergency Medical Team level 2) type field hospital validated by the WHO and capable of accommodating up to 100 patients / day with a team on board, staff of doctors, nurses and surgeons, and set up in Adiyaman province in Golbasi.

On February 16, the UN appealed for international assistance to raise $1 billion. For its part, the World Bank has announced aid of 1.78 billion USD to help with relief and support the reconstruction of the affected regions. The Turkish President announced that the local and international aid sent to AFAD had reached 410 million EUR.

The European Union (EU) is committed to providing additional emergency assistance to Turkey and Syria through the Union's Civil Protection Mechanism, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance of a amount of EUR 6.5 million. This is one of the largest search and rescue operations ever undertaken by the EU through its Civil Protection Mechanism.

France immediately mobilized to provide initial emergency aid to the affected populations. An initial funding of EUR 12 million has been put in place for the benefit of the United Nations and NGOs operating in the affected areas. A plane chartered by the Crisis and Support Center of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs left for Gaziantep with 40 tons of equipment on board which will be handed over to AFAD and the International Office for Migration (IOM).

The Turkish government announced the transfer of 100 billion TL to government institutions (5 billion EUR) in addition to 1 billion TL to AFAD. At the same time, several measures have been taken at the government level to support the victims:

- For households: an aid of 10,000 TL (500 EUR) will be paid to each affected family, as well as an aid of 15,000 TL (over 1 year) in addition to a relocation aid of 5,000 TL.

- For businesses: The Central Bank has extended the maturities associated with credit rediscounts (interest-free up to 180 days) and introduced exemptions on reserve requirements backed by new loans granted.

The Central Bank also cut interest rates again citing the earthquakes which should be a drag on growth in the short term but whose effect would be neutral in the medium term. This is the first interest rate cut since November. At half a percentage point, the decline was smaller than expected. The key rate now stands at 8.5%. This is the lowest level in three years.

While the chances of finding survivors are almost nil, the urgency is now to rescue the survivors and Turkey is already thinking about reconstruction. More than 118,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged. 98% of the houses destroyed by these earthquakes had been built before 1999 and were positioned directly on the seismic fault (i.e. before the great earthquake of August 17, 1999 which occurred in Izmit and which caused the death of 17,000 people. after which the Turkish authorities passed new laws requiring the construction of buildings that meet earthquake standards). The president announced the construction in March of 200,000 new homes in the provinces affected by the earthquake, promising that the victims will be able to move in there within a year. Restoration of historical and cultural sites that were damaged by the strong shaking is expected to begin next month.

After this unprecedented humanitarian tragedy, a reconstruction and resilience program for the benefit of the affected regions will be developed by the Turkish government. Experience shows that Turkey remains particularly resilient in the face of difficulties, whether political, diplomatic, economic or in the face of natural disasters.

We are particularly saddened by this tragedy. We reiterate our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to those injured. We encourage those who can to contribute to humanitarian aid by donating to the official organizations listed below.