An aerial view shows a woman siting next to an art work painted on the rubble of a building that collapsed during the February 6 earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, in the rebel-held town of Jindayris in northern Syria, on February 22, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP


Two devastating earthquakes at magnitudes of 7,7 and 7,6 respectively, struck southeast of Türkiye on 6 February 2023. Another two at magnitudes of 6,4 and 5,8 hit Hatay province on 20 February. In the meantime, quake-stricken region was shaken by over 6.000 aftershocks since 6th February. In this respect, I would like to share information on the scope of the disaster, as well as subsequent search and rescue operations and international assistance sent to Türkiye.

The earthquakes have affected a vast area, comprising of 10 cities, which bears a total population of 13,5 million people, in other words almost 1/6th of the country's total population. In order to provide you a better perspective of the earthquake, let me express that the earthquake zone is bigger than various European countries such as Austria, Switzerland or Bulgaria, and earthquake-stricken people are more populous than the population of for instance Belgium, Greece or Portugal. It is the most destructive and comprehensive natural disaster that ever took place within NATO territories since the inception of the Alliance.

I have to inform you with deep sorrow that the two consecutive earthquakes together have constituted the deadliest seismic event in the whole history of the Republic of Türkiye with a death toll of 42.310 people as of 21 February 2023, according to latest statistics.

Following the disaster, Türkiye has declared a "level 4 alarm" which is an alarm condition that includes international call for help. The Turkish Parliament declared a three-month state of emergency in earthquake affected provinces and mobilized all its emergency response capabilities. The rescue efforts were also complemented by international support. Many governments dispatched medical/rescue personnel, funds and equipment.

Approximately 35000 search & rescue staff have worked in the earthquake zone so far. As of 21 February, 102 countries offered to send expert teams, 90 of which have taken part in search & rescue operations. 67 of them have completed their task and returned to their home countries. As of today, 23 countries are still present on the ground with their international personnel.

In the wake of the disaster, like all Turkish diplomatic missions all over the World, our Embassy has coordinated in-kind donations in Finland.

National mourning was declared as of 6 February 2023 for one week. Every Turkish Mission abroad also opened condolence books and many high-level officials, including Presidents and Prime ministers were first to sign in numerous countries. For instance, the condolence books in countries, among them Germany, Romania, Ireland, Latvia, were signed at Presidential level and those in Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands were signed at Prime Ministerial level.

The Turkish-Finnish community spared no efforts, to extend their helping hand to their brothers and sisters in Türkiye. We have also observed, with gratitude, close affinity of the Finnish people, who sincerely shared the grief of earthquake victims and exhibited compassion towards them.

Finnish Government sent to Türkiye a team of experts via EU Civil Protection Mechanism, as well as, allocating humanitarian assistance materials (winterized tents, blankets, sleeping bags, stoves etc.) worth of 1 million Euros through Finnish Red Cross and NGOs, other aid materials sent vie NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EARDCC). We have recently been informed that Finnish Business circled have also pledged substantial contributions. We thank them all.

Quake stricken areas and Turkish people are undergoing hard times which will not come to an end in a while. On the other hand, amidst the disaster, we have observed under the rubbles that how diverging fault lines simultaneously converged the hearts and minds of people from different corners of the world. We have also experienced many instances where humanitarian solidarity surpasses the mundane limits of international politics. Earthquake wounds will eventually heal, bitter memories will slowly dwindle, if not totally die away: nevertheless, the friendship and solidarity shown in the aftermath of this disaster will always be remembered.

Deniz Çakar
Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye in Helsinki