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The devastation in Turkey and Syria is heart breaking – our support is needed more than ever

(Alamy)

4 min read

The scenes from the devastation caused by the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week are heart breaking.

As a mother, watching a newborn being pulled out of the rubble whose whole family had died and a father sat holding the hand of his teenage daughter who lay dead under the ruins of their home broke my heart.

The United Kingdom has a large Turkish speaking community predominantly from the region that has been affected by the earthquake. Like many members of the British Turkish / Kurdish community, my family woke last Monday trying to contact loved ones and relatives. We were incredibly lucky to find out that the majority of our family are safe. Thousands of families have not been so lucky. 

We were incredibly lucky to find out that the majority of our family are safe. Thousands of families have not been so lucky

I spent Monday at a local British Alevi Community Centre. Seeing families at the local community centre talking to loved ones and watching on via a WhatsApp video call, while family members tried desperately to dig through the rubble was heart rending.

The feeling of desperation grew as time passed and as people waited longer and longer for help to reach them.

Victims were trapped under collapsed buildings and their loved ones, with communication to the region limited, even took to social media to call for help.

Feeling totally helpless, I myself could do little more than take to Twitter to raise the alarm and call for help for relatives of my brother-in-law, who were trapped under their collapsed building.

Sadly, they died after waiting three days for help to reach their neighbourhood. This has been the case for so many across the disaster zones, with many in Syria still yet to receive any assistance.

The first 72 hours are the most crucial for search rescue teams to find survivors. But sub-zero, unforgiving cold weather and the sheer scale – dozens of cities and thousands of buildings – hit by earthquake made this even less likely for thousands who were trapped.

When devastation on this scale occurs one of the few aspects to take solace in is the responses and acts of others.

The international response to this disaster has been immense. I am grateful to our own government who immediately sent over search and rescue teams and a UK emergency medical assessment team. A fund launched by the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee raised more than £30m in its first day.

The community response has touched me the most. I have visited numerous community centres over the past week whose members have been spending day and night organising aid to be sent to Turkey via trucks and holding fundraisers in order to send overmuch needed monetary assistance.

The number of local faith groups – Jewish, Sikh, Christian and Muslim – who came to the centres to show their support and make donations has been hugely heart-warming. Even primary schools in my constituency and across north London have held fundraising events last week.

But the response by the Turkish government has fallen short. I worry that the speed of the government’s response has not been fast enough and may have led to many being unable to escape the rubble. President Tayyip Erdoğan himself has conceded this.

In the coming days we will learn more of the scale of this disaster. As hope of finding survivors fades questions will be asked about how thousands of buildings, supposedly designed to withstand these kinds of events, were reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes.

But for now, the focus both internationally and in the disaster zones must be on those who remain in Turkey and Syria and have had their lives destroyed. It is hard to see now how some of these areas will begin to rebuild. But I know the community here in north London will continue to do all they can to support those in such dire need and I call on our government and Turkey to do the same.

 

Feryal Clark, Labour MP for Enfield North.

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