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EDITORIAL | Turkey Earthquake Rescue: Set Aside Politics to Help

The damage caused by the earthquake in Turkey continues to spread. In a race against time, nations must unite to save as many lives as possible.

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Many buildings collapsed in an earthquake in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border on February 6. (© Getty via Kyodo)

The death toll continues to rise after a major earthquake struck Turkey in the early morning of February 6. The earthquake's epicenter was near the Syrian border in southeastern Turkey.

Four days have passed since the earthquake, and it is believed that people are still trapped in the debris. Lifesaving and rescue efforts are underway in a race against time.

Footage of the aftermath shows the sheer extent of the damage. A rescue worker tries to soothe a child buried in debris. In front of the ruins of a building, a survivor cries out before the camera, appealing for the rescue of family members. The death toll in both Turkey and Syria rises as time passes mercilessly.

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People gather around a bonfire near a building that collapsed in the February 6 earthquake. February 8, 2023 (© Getty via Kyodo)

Comprehensive assistance will be provided to Turkey, the Japanese government announced. It has already dispatched the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Urban Search and Rescue Team. In fact, the first half arrived in Turkey on February 7.

Europe and the United States, as well as China, Russia, and Ukraine, have moved quickly to provide emergency assistance. 

Concerns of a 'Secondary Disaster'

However, it is feared that the earthquake's aftershocks will cause even further damage. Rescue teams must be on high alert for a "secondary disaster" while also fighting for every life that can still be saved. 

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Buildings collapse and smoke rises from the February 6 earthquake in Turkey, February 7, 2023 (© Getty via Kyodo)

But in war-torn Syria, humanitarian assistance from the Assad government is reportedly unable to reach affected areas with strong anti-government leanings. 

The international community must overcome political differences in a united effort to assist the victims in Turkey and Syria. Now is the time for the United Nations to demonstrate its ability to bring nations together.

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Diverse Needs of a Disaster-Prone Area

Turkey is an earthquake-prone region, where multiple tectonic plates push against each other. The earthquake that struck on February 6 had an estimated magnitude of 7.8. This is on par with the major earthquake that hit Turkey in 1999, which killed more than 17,000 people. Both earthquakes were larger than the magnitude 7.3 Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

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The Japan Disaster Relief Rescue Team heads for Turkey on the night of February 6 to aid in the aftermath of the earthquake in Turkey. (© Kyodo)

In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, many countries came to aid Japan. Turkish rescue teams worked many hours to search for missing persons.

The needs of disaster-stricken areas will change and diversify over time. Regardless of those changes, saving lives and searching for missing persons come first. Survivors will also need livelihood support. Then, the country must work toward reconstruction and disaster prevention.

Japan is also prone to earthquakes and natural disasters. It knows firsthand the difficulties faced by disaster-stricken areas and the agony felt by the survivors. 

Both materially and spiritually, Japan should continue to extend its support to the people of Turkey and Syria.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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