Deliver Humanitarian Aid to Affected Areas As Soon As Possible

A major earthquake has hit southern Turkey and the northwestern part of neighboring Syria, causing extensive damage.

The transportation of relief supplies has been hampered by such additional factors as road disruptions and political conflict within Syria, but the international community must proceed with relief and rescue operations for the victims as quickly as possible.

On Feb. 6, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake was followed by a 7.5-magnitude aftershock. Many people were trapped under buildings, and more than 10,000 people were killed in Turkey and Syria.

This is reportedly the first earthquake that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

High-rise apartments and buildings collapsed one after another in a short period as a result of the temblors. Based on local footage, many of the buildings were made of bricks and did not appear to have been adequately reinforced with rebar.

Turkey is an earthquake-prone region and has established strict quake-resistance standards for buildings, but measures may not have been promoted in the affected areas.

Many people are still buried alive. Roads connecting affected areas are covered with debris, which has delayed rescue efforts. It has been heartbreaking to see people digging through bricks by hand to search for survivors because they lack heavy machinery.

The affected areas are experiencing extremely cold weather with temperatures below zero. Food, clothes and cold weather goods, medicine, tents and other supplies must be delivered to survivors as soon as possible.

Rescuers from about 70 countries, including European nations, the United States and China, as well as Japan’s international emergency relief and rescue team, have joined efforts in affected areas. It is hoped that they will make every possible effort to save as many lives as possible.

Turkey is traditionally pro-Japan. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, Ankara dispatched a rescue team and joined the search for missing people. Japan needs to return the favor with generous support, including relief donations from the general public.

The affected areas on the Syrian side are in a conflict zone amid a civil war between forces under President Bashar al-Assad and rebels. There is a high possibility that the situation in Syria could be more serious than that on the Turkish side. The areas controlled by the rebels have been devastated in attacks by the Assad regime and the Russian military. The earthquake has further exacerbated the situation.

The United Nations had been sending relief supplies to war-stricken areas in Syria via Turkey, but the earthquake has also damaged transportation routes. It is not certain that relief supplies from foreign countries will be delivered swiftly to the affected areas.

In northwestern Syria alone, more than 4 million people require assistance. The humanitarian crisis cannot be allowed to worsen further.

The United Nations needs to call on the international community to cooperate so that assistance can continue. The Assad administration should exercise restraint in its attacks on rebels.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 10, 2023)