Devastating disaster

Editorial Board
Tuesday, Feb 07, 2023

The February 6 deadly earthquakes are a terrifying tale of a natural calamity that has resulted in widespread devastation and a horrific death toll. The seismic activity, which hit Turkiye and Syria -- and whose tremors were felt even in Lebanon and Israel – has led to the death of thousands (till last count nearly 2500 people) across Turkiye and Syria. The first quake measured 7.8 magnitude while the second that followed just hours later was recorded at 7.5 or 7.6 on the Richter Scale. The videos and photos coming from the affected countries are heart-wrenching -- cities covered in piles of rubble; rescue workers looking for survivors; buildings literally coming down as though made of paper; people crying out for those they have lost to one of the worst natural disasters to hit humanity in recent years. Rescue operations have also been a little slow as the freezing cold, rain and snow have made it difficult for workers to reach victims. And while most victims have been shifted to local hospitals, Turkish President Erdogan has said that the country does not know where the number of the dead and injured can go, highlighting the large-scale destruction caused by the twin earthquakes. On Monday (right after the Turkish nation woke up to the terrifying news), the Turkish economy suffered a blow when the lira dipped to 18.85 – a record low – against the US dollar. Geopolitical tensions in the region and a race against the strong dollar have already added a lot of difficulties for the country. And now, this deadly disaster will lead to a humanitarian crisis that will need all the help the country can get.

On the other side is Syria, a country that has already suffered unimaginable torture at the hands of a war not of its people's making, stuck in a never-ending cycle of violence and chaos. The ongoing war has already put a lot of strain on the country's healthcare. This earthquake will add more burden on the fragile sector. Initial reports have suggested that hospitals in Syria are almost full, prompting medical professionals to start treatment of victims in the corridors. Most hospitals are also facing a shortage of blood.

Devastation of this nature calls for world leaders to join hands to rebuild the destroyed cities and help survivors get back to their lives. It is heartening to see that Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif has spoken to the Turkish president and said that Pakistan will help Turkiye in these challenging times. The prime minister has also announced that teams comprising doctors, paramedics and rescue workers have been sent to Turkiye while a plane carrying medicines and other essential relief goods has also been sent to the country. Pakistan, which is on the brink of default, may not have enough resources to help these two countries as much as they need but one hopes the global community comes together at this time to help the people of both Turkiye and Syria. We are unfortunately living in a century where large-scale natural disasters are expected to be more frequent. Can we hope that the world will shift towards building resilient infrastructure to protect itself against the cruelty of climate change-led and other natural disasters.