Devastating earthquakes that struck northwest Syria and Turkey on February 6 have caused more than 37,000 fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries.
More than five thousand six hundred buildings collapsed across southeastern Turkey because of the earthquakes, the deadliest since Japan’s Fukushima in 2011.
It has left people without shelter and in desperate need of food, blankets, and fuel to flee the city and find safety. Currently, a state of emergency has been declared for the following three months in the ten provinces of Turkey. Moreover, rescue workers continue to search amid heaps of wreckage in the bitter cold and heavy snow for survivors. International nations are sending sniffer dogs, specialized crews, and equipment to support rescue operations.
Turkey’s emergency response has been impacted by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck while most people were still asleep.
The 7.8 magnitude tremor was reported to have occurred close to the city of Gaziantep at a depth of eleven miles around seventeen minutes to four local time (01:17 Greenwich Mean Time). According to seismologists, the first earthquake was one of the biggest ever recorded in Turkey. The second earthquake, which was caused by the first, had an epicenter in the Elbistan region of the Kahramanmaras province and measured 7.5 on the Richter scale.
The astounding death toll from the earthquake can be partially attributed to the so-called "pancake" collapse of numerous buildings in Turkey. More than thirty-six thousand individuals have perished in the catastrophe, many of whom were crushed or trapped due to catastrophic structural faults. The WHO has issued a warning that as additional victims are discovered in the rubble, the present numbers might rise by as much as eight times.
The crisis has had the greatest impact on the following ten Turkish provinces:
In the wake of this earthquake, roads have been destroyed in Turkey, and there are massive heaps of rubble that stretch for miles.
Gaziantep Castle, a more than two-thousand-year-old historical site, was one of the structures that got destroyed in this earthquake.
In 2022, around forty-four million foreigners traveled to Turkey, making it a popular tourist destination. According to Turkish government statistics, many prospective tourists have made travel reservations to important resorts and towns, especially in well-known coastal winter sun destinations. However, the horrific earthquake that shook Turkey and Syria, killing thousands of people while hurting countless others has given rise to uncertainty. Undoubtedly, individuals who intend to visit the area in the upcoming days and weeks are concerned and may need to review their travel plans. Travelers are advised to exercise caution if they intend to visit Turkey. Tourists are also advised to stay away from the immediate area of the earthquake while Istanbul, the Aegean coast, and Ankara are open to business as usual.
The UK Foreign Office has advised its citizens to "avoid the immediate proximity" regions of the tragedy, as Turkey remains one of the most popular vacation spots for Britons. Even travelers from the United States have been warned to "avoid travel to areas affected by the earthquake."
Travel to the top tourist spots, which are often far from the earthquake-hit areas, is largely untouched. However, in a nation that is currently in a three-month state of national emergency, there will unavoidably be some impact. Moreover, Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s flag carrier airline, has canceled many flights during the past few days. Turkish news outlets have reported that the airport in Adana, Turkey, has been shut down indefinitely. A neighboring airport, Hatay Airport, has also been closed because of a damaged runway.
However, the main international airport in Turkey, Istanbul Airport, is working normally. For the most recent information, passengers flying into any of the affected airports should get in touch with the airline.
In Turkey, the poor response time and tolerance of subpar buildings have been drawing increasing media attention. According to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey, almost ninety-three thousand people have been evacuated from the earthquake zone. The response or lack thereof of the Turkish government to disasters is drawing criticism. It has been reported that people were left on their own to fend for themselves in the hours following the disaster since no military forces were dispatched to the impacted districts. According to the reports, several locals tried unsuccessfully to call the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) but to no avail.
In response, the World Bank has announced that it will give Turkey 1.78 billion United States dollars in aid to help with relief and rehabilitation work following the deadly earthquakes. In a news release, the World Bank stated that, based on its significant experience in disaster risk management from around the world, it has begun a quick damage assessment to determine the extent of the disaster. It is also going to identify the main regions for reconstruction support.
The Climate and Disaster Resilient Cities Project and Turkiye Earthquake, Floods and Wildfires Emergency Reconstruction Project are reportedly offering assistance totaling seven hundred and eighty million United States dollars. Such organizations will release funds through the Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERCs) from their respective programs. At the moment, the World Bank is providing urgent assistance for reconstruction and recovery from this calamity. It has also been reported further that an extra one billion United States Dollars is in operation to serve the affected people.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is in charge of overseeing the United States government’s response to the deadliest earthquake to strike the area in a century, will deliver eighty-five million United States dollars as urgent humanitarian assistance. The assistance includes giving refugees and recently displaced persons essential food and shelter, winter goods to help them survive the chilly weather, providing support in response to the trauma endured, drinking water, and assistance with cleanliness and sanitation.
At the moment, the Turkish government has announced that only vehicles carrying aid teams and help supplies will be permitted to access cities that have been identified to be inside the disaster region in the wake of the earthquake. Visitors from the United States that are scheduled to arrive in the upcoming days and weeks to Turkey have been advised to stay away from the earthquake-affected regions. In a statement, the US Embassy has warned that large aftershocks are still occurring and are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Both the US and the UK governments have not advised their nationals to avoid Turkey’s unaffected areas.
Still, Turkey is prone to earthquakes in several areas. In the event of an earthquake, visitors traveling to the nation should familiarize themselves with safety measures and precautions they will need to take and must heed the local authorities’ instructions. At all times, travelers should have their passports and a printed copy of any necessary visas or residency permits. The Turkish government is stopping members of the public in select popular areas, particularly Istanbul, to check IDs.
On the other hand, Islamic State is attempting to gain ground amidst the misery of the Turkey-Syria earthquake. The security concern posed by the earthquake’s impact on the Turkish-Syrian border hangs over Turkey as it deals with the fallout from the catastrophic event. Reportedly, at least twenty prisoners broke out of a Syrian prison near the Turkish border that held primarily members of the Islamic State, using the earthquake as cover. For the moment, visitors planning to go to Turkey must heed the advice issued by their governments and stay up to date with the latest development in the region by following the news closely.
The primary tourist destinations in Turkey, such as Antalya and Istanbul, are situated far away from the affected areas. Turkish authorities have not yet given any indications that travel to the main tourist destinations in the nation has been impacted or halted. There are still international flights going to and from Turkey. The airport in Istanbul is still open and running normally. On the other hand, a preliminary UNESCO investigation has revealed that some structures at the Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape and Diyarbakir Fortress World Heritage Site have collapsed.
The earthquake destroyed the historic Gaziantep Castle, one of the most well-known sites in the Turkish city. Nearby world heritage sites including Tell of Arslantepe, Nemrut Dağ, and Göbekli Tepe have been reportedly impacted. The threat of terrorist strikes against Istanbul’s churches, synagogues, Embassies/Consulates, and other locations frequented by foreigners has also increased recently. Although the Turkish government is investigating the matter, visitors should make informed decisions. Individuals traveling to Turkey are advised to exercise caution, heed the guidance of local security officials, keep an eye on media reports, and stay updated with travel advice.
Due to the earthquake, Turkey is currently in a three-month state of national emergency. Therefore, it is crucial to keep in mind that the repercussions and unforeseen consequences of the earthquake will likely be felt for some time to come.