UK disasters committee launches Turkey-Syria earthquake charity appeal

Combined appeal from 14 British charities as the death toll from the quake disaster rises above 17,000

Volunteers deliver water to residents in Elbistan Turkey. Getty Images
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Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Humanitarian charities in the UK are to launch an appeal to raise funds for people affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

A joint rapid response by 14 charities including the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children is being co-ordinated by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) as the death toll from the disaster rises above 17,000.

The UK government will match any donations made by the public, said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

“When disasters like these terrible earthquakes strike, we know the British people want to help,” he said.

“They have shown time and again that few are more generous and compassionate.

“That is why we are match-funding public donations to DEC’s appeal to provide urgent humanitarian assistance, as part of a wider package of support from the UK that will be used to provide life-saving interventions to those who need it most in the region.”

Britain's search and rescue team including sniffer dogs after landing in Gaziantep, Turkey. Photo: FCDO

The first 7.8-magnitude quake hit the Turkish city of Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday, reducing thousands of homes and buildings across the south of the country and northern Syria to rubble as people slept.

A series of aftershocks has left tens of thousands injured and survivors are feared trapped under thousands of collapsed buildings.

Salah Saeed, the DEC’s chief executive, said funds were “urgently needed” to deal with the “heartbreaking” situation.

“In Turkey alone, 6,000 buildings including schools and health centres have collapsed, with infrastructure vital to everyday life such as sanitation and water supplies badly damaged,” he said.

European rescue teams head to Turkey and Syria — in pictures

“Funds are urgently needed to support families with medical aid, emergency shelter, food and clean water in freezing, snowy conditions.”

Relief efforts have been hampered by damaged infrastructure, freezing winter temperatures and limited medical facilities.

The DEC said it expects humanitarian needs to grow over the coming days, with access to shelter, clean water and warmth all potential risks.

Salah Aboulgasem, who is working with charity Islamic Relief in Gazientep, said there is “a lot of screaming” in the devastated areas.

Humanitarian aid and rescue teams being sent to Turkey and Syria — in pictures

“The priority right now is saving lives by clearing the rubble,” he said.

“The next priority is supporting people who have lost their homes and gone through huge trauma.

“People need medicines and warmth. There is a lot of screaming, people are trying to find relatives.

“A lot of people are sleeping in cars because they are scared to go back into the buildings due to aftershocks. The cars are freezing cold.”

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The appeal was launched as the UK government pledged to send “life-saving” equipment to Turkey and Syria.

The UK government announced on Wednesday that it was providing thousands of medical kits, tents and blankets to help survivors amid freezing temperatures in both countries.

“The UK is sending life-saving kit to Turkey and Syria,” said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

“This will include vital medical expertise and hygiene kits and also tents and blankets to help people keep warm and sheltered in the terrible freezing conditions they are having to endure on top of the devastation of the earthquakes.

“Our priority is to ensure life-saving assistance is given to those most in need, co-ordinated with the Turkish government, UN and international partners.”

The UK is also sending medics, having already flown a team of 76 search-and-rescue specialists, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and four specially trained dogs to the countries.

Updated: February 09, 2023, 11:24 AM