How to help the people in the earthquake region?

After the earthquakes in south-eastern Turkey and north-western Syria, the number of victims is rising rapidly. By Wednesday morning the death toll had climbed to at least 9,000 and thousands of people are struggling to survive, trapped under the rubble or completely exposed to the freezing cold. Europe’s press discusses what must be done to ensure that international aid reaches as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

24 Chasa (BG) /

Double suffering in Syria

Many people in Syria have already gone through much suffering as a result of the civil war, 24 Chasa underlines:

“But at least before they had homes or lived in refugee camps. Now all we see is the collapsed ruins of the buildings where these people had to live after years of fighting, and they are forced to live among the ruins of the previous ruins. What the war did not destroy, the forces of nature have now demolished. ... These people have been put to the test time and again by the shelling and bombing of hospitals and kindergartens by the Syrian and Russian air forces. They were already living in degrading conditions. And now all that has been doubled, tripled, quadrupled.”

Wladimir Tschukow
La Stampa (IT) /

Life-giving aid planes only on one side

La Stampa describes the unequal access to aid with a vivid image:

“The south-east of Turkey is a rectangle which is full of small yellow dots representing planes on flight maps. These planes are life. Relief supplies, medicines, food, vehicles and aid services arriving from all over the world. A little further down is a large grey triangle: Syria. Where nothing is arriving. ... Yet the devastation from the earthquake made no distinctions, striking with equal force on both sides of the border. And on both sides live human beings.”

Giordano Stabile
De Standaard (BE) /

Even the earthquake can’t penetrate Assad’s cynicism

De Standaard criticises that the rulers in the Syrian capital are not opening the country’s borders to international aid shipments without restrictions:

“The Syrian regime already made it clear on Monday evening that the borders would not be opened to aid shipments without further ado. ... With this stance, the regime in Damascus is showing that cynical politics also prevail when it comes to providing aid to areas held by the opposition. For years, the Assad regime has been pushing for all humanitarian aid to arrive via Damascus. This way it can ‘siphon off’ some of the aid and decide for itself what happens with the relief supplies.”

Jorn De Cock
The Irish Times (IE) /

Cooperation must take priority now

Political conflicts must take a back seat in the face of this disaster, admonishes The Irish Times:

“There is a responsibility on Damascus to put such hostilities aside and to facilitate international aid to its beleaguered citizens. ... The international response has so far been united and speedy — Turkey has welcomed offers of aid from 70 countries and international organisations and the EU has mobilised more than 30 search and rescue or medical teams. It is to be hoped that these, and teams from the likes of Iran, China, and the UAE will find ways, in the face of this humanitarian tragedy, to work together. The scale of this disaster demands that politics not be allowed to hamper the rescue effort.”

T24 (TR) /

Preventive measures could really help

Many life-saving measures need to be implemented especially with a view to future earthquakes, T24 warns:

“After every earthquake, the same images, the same statements. No steps were taken to minimise the loss of life and property caused by earthquakes. The admonitions and studies of scientists fall on deaf ears. Until the catastrophe comes. ... Yet in an earthquake country like Turkey, the sentence ‘high-risk cities should be prepared for earthquakes’ should be a priority in the programmes of all governments, regardless of their political views”

Yalçın Doğan
La Stampa (IT) /

Poorly built and in the wrong place

Humans play a key role in determining the scope of the tragedies caused by natural disasters, geologist Mario Tozzi argues in La Stampa:

“Human civilisations exist only thanks to a temporary geological consensus that can be overturned without warning. ... Yet we continue to inhabit dangerous regions throughout the Mediterranean without taking this into account. The symbolic image of this earthquake is that of ten-storey buildings collapsing into a heap of rubble — how is that possible? Let’s remember that it is not earthquakes that are deadly, but poorly built houses, and in this respect Turkey — and Syria — are very similar to Italy.”

Mario Tozzi
Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Greed is to blame

Cumhuriyet sees a deadly system at work:

“Politics does not serve the citizens, but enrichment. And urban looting and land speculation are the fastest and most effective means to achieve that goal. National and local politicians plunder cities and building plots. Construction companies use old and poor quality materials. Those politically responsible do not carry out inspections. The people are uneducated. Morals are corrupt. Everyone is only out for quick profit. ... To sum up: it is not earthquakes that are deadly, nor even the buildings. It is the ‘primitive people’, ‘primitive politicians’ and ‘primitive construction companies’ who are behind the building that ends up looking like the killer.”

Emre Kongar
Evrensel (TR) /

Solidarity without politics needed

The scale of the destruction requires that all sides do their best to help, Evrensel insists:

“Support of any kind must not be prevented now. We say ‘prevented’ because that is exactly what we saw with the Elazığ earthquake in 2020. ... We all still remember how flimsy pretexts were used to try to prevent relief measures by the [opposition] CHP and HDP communities — from operating construction machinery to distributing bread. But now is the time to show solidarity with the earthquake victims by sending food, beverages, heating materials, shelter, hygiene articles, everything people need to survive, regardless of what has happened in the past!”

Ihsan Çaralan
Le Quotidien (LU) /

Only a brief moment of hope

Le Quotidien comments on the help that has flooded in from all sides:

“How is this wave of solidarity between sworn enemies to be interpreted? ... Why does a ‘simple’ natural disaster provoke such a unanimous response, regardless of the conflicts and disagreements between the various countries and blocs? Should we conclude that humanity has not completely lost itself in the now almost forgotten bloody war in Syria, followed by the war in Ukraine? ... In reality, only a very faint glimmer of hope emerged in the hours after the devastating earthquake. ... Soon the eyes of the world will turn away again from the dramas on both sides of the border.”

David Marques
taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Crisis management could determine election result

The taz’s Turkey correspondent Jürgen Gottschlich explains the political consequences of the catastrophe:

“If Erdoğan manages to put together a convincing disaster relief plan, he could secure his re-election. In Germany, people remember former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, whose efforts against the floods on the Elbe River secured him a surprise re-election. ... If the region in the south-east of Turkey — already considered a trouble area due to war and ethnic conflicts — sinks further into chaos, the opposition will probably make gains. Nevertheless, for the sake of those affected one can only hope that the crisis management will succeed.”

Jürgen Gottschlich