Japan plans more aid as Turkey-Syria quake death toll nears 12,000
TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday the government plans to provide additional support to areas hit by a powerful earthquake in southern Turkey as the death toll in the country and neighboring Syria surpassed 12,000.
With Japan’s disaster relief rescue team having started work in Turkey’s southern province of Kahramanmaras, Kishida said in a parliamentary session, “We will consider sending necessary assistance in light of the needs of local people.”
Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, told a press conference that Tokyo is also considering providing humanitarian aid to Syria in response to a request by its government.
Two full days have passed since the magnitude 7.8 temblor struck the region, and rescue workers are racing against time, digging through collapsed buildings and rubble in the frigid winter weather.
The earthquake has left over 45,000 people injured both in Turkey and Syria, with buildings toppled and roads damaged across a wide area.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday his country has received offers of aid from 70 countries and 14 international organizations, with more than 1,000 rescue personnel arriving from Europe.
Kurds living in Japan have been worried about the whereabouts of family members and friends in southern Turkey.
“I want international aid professionals to get there as soon as possible,” Ekrem Yildirim, a 47-year-old resident of Yokohama, said Tuesday.
He was able to confirm the safety of his father and brother in Kahramanmaras but said a friend has lost three relatives and he is unable to reach more than 20 other people.
“Quake victims are digging through snow and rubble with their hands,” he said, mentioning they need blankets.
But Yildirim, who fled to Japan in 2001 fearing Turkish government persecution for being Kurdish, said he strongly doubts that Ankara will provide sufficient aid to his people.
In Syria, planes carrying relief supplies from Iran and the United Arab Emirates arrived at an airport in Damascus, the capital city. Rescue personnel and supplies from Algeria have also arrived in the northern city of Aleppo, according to local media.
Meanwhile, concerns remain over whether sufficient aid will be provided to the country, torn apart by years of civil war and foreign intervention, in its northwestern province currently under the control of forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Humanitarian aid from the United Nations to Syria through southern Turkey has been impeded by the earthquake’s devastation in the area.
“As it is an emergency, we want to seek support for the entire area affected by the quake, regardless of ethnicity,” said Yugel Mehmet, whose mother lives in southern Turkey, after attending an emergency meeting of Kurdish people in Japan on Tuesday.
The group, the Japan Kurdish Cultural Association, gathered in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, to exchange information on the local situation. It is collecting donations at restaurants managed by its members or through social media.