After earthquake, U.S. assists Türkiye, Syria

Members of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team unload cargo at Incirlik Air Base, Türkiye, February 8. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Joshua T. Crossman)

U.S. search and rescue teams are on the ground in Türkiye responding to the devastating earthquake in the region as U.S. officials pledge continued support after the disaster.

On February 6, President Biden directed U.S. officials to provide “any and all needed assistance” after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake leveled buildings and killed thousands of people in southeastern Türkiye and northern Syria. As of February 8, the death toll had risen to over 15,000 people, according to news reports.

Search and rescue professionals sitting in cargo plane (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Faith Barron)
Urban search and rescue team members from Fairfax County, Virginia, travel to assist Türkiye’s earthquake response February 7. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Faith Barron)

“Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake,” Biden said. “U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.”

The teams from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department bring search dogs and structural engineers. Both teams also responded to the massive April 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

The teams were deployed as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team that is assessing the disaster area, identifying priority needs and coordinating assistance with Turkish authorities and other partners.

The European Union is also sending search and rescue teams to Türkiye and is providing satellite emergency mapping systems, according to the Associated Press.

Service members loading pallet onto cargo plane (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sergeant Marco A. Gomez)
U.S. Air Force airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load supplies onto an aircraft at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, February 7. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sergeant Marco A. Gomez)

Meanwhile, U.S.-supported humanitarian organizations are responding to the disaster in Syria. As of February 8, the White Helmets, a Syrian emergency response organization supported by USAID, had pulled more than 1,000 survivors from the rubble. Other U.S. humanitarian partners were delivering food, water, shelter and medical support to Syrians in need.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power has called for the border between Türkiye and Syria to remain open to ensure critical assistance can get wherever it is needed.

“We are determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said February 6.