The quakes were the biggest natural disaster in the region since 1999 when a similar quake killed over 17,000 people in Turkey. The disaster has also left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in the middle of winter.
U.N. Aid Convoy Crosses into N.W. Syria from Turkey
The first U.N. aid convoy has crossed into N.W. Syria from Turkey, providing much-needed support to the homeless. People have been camping out in makeshift shelters such as mosques, supermarkets, and roadsides and desperately need food, water, and heat.
Homeless People Sleeping By the Roadside
Turkey's AFAD disaster agency has set up meeting points for people left homeless, and more than 28,000 people have been evacuated so far. In Antakya, the Turkish Red Crescent has set up tents in a park, but they are all full, and many people have to spend the night in their cars. There have been complaints of a lack of equipment and support to rescue those trapped, and the main road into Antakya is clogged with traffic, slowing the relief effort.
President Erdogan's Election Challenge
The disaster could challenge President Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming election in May. There is simmering anger over the slow delivery of aid and the delays in getting the rescue effort underway, and this disaster is bound to play into the vote should it still go ahead. Any perception that the government failed to address the disaster properly could hurt Erdogan's prospects.
A few survivors were rescued, including Abdulalim Muaini, who was pulled from his collapsed home in Hatay after being trapped for 72 hours. An injured 60-year-old woman named Meral Nakir was rescued 77 hours after the first quake struck in Malatya. Nevertheless, the disaster poses an additional challenge to the long-ruling president in the election.