LONDON: The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee is to launch an emergency appeal for funds following the earthquakes that hit Turkiye and Syria on Monday.
It will be broadcast on all major TV channels in the UK on Thursday Feb. 9, with the government pledging to match the first £5 million ($6 million) in donations, and the Scottish government giving another £500,000.
Any funds raised will be distributed across 14 organizations currently operating in or deploying to the area — including the British Red Cross, Oxfam and ActionAid — to purchase things such as clean water, food, temporary shelters and medical equipment.
At least 15,000 people have already died since the earthquakes struck, with the toll expected to climb on account of the vast number of injuries and poor conditions in the region.
Many thousands of buildings in both countries have been destroyed, leaving survivors without shelter, and weather conditions frequently dip into sub-zero temperatures.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “When disasters like these terrible earthquakes strike, we know the British people want to help. They have shown time and again that few are more generous and compassionate.
“That is why we are match-funding public donations to DEC’s appeal to provide urgent humanitarian assistance, as part of a wider package of support from the UK that will be used to provide lifesaving interventions to those who need it most in the region.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This earthquake has caused a huge amount of damage and significant loss of life that will be felt for some time to come.”
She added that her government would “support those affected with medical care, shelter, food and clean water.”
DEC CEO Saleh Saeed told the BBC: “In Turkiye alone, 6,000 buildings including schools and health centres have collapsed, with infrastructure vital to everyday life such as sanitation and water supplies badly damaged.
“Funds are urgently needed to support families with medical aid, emergency shelter, food and clean water in freezing, snowy conditions.”
He added: “We know that money is tight for many people here in the UK as the cost of living crisis continues but, if you can, please do donate to support people caught up in this deadly disaster.”
He said despite the crisis on the ground, British charities were working relatively well in Syria due to already being established there as a result of the conflict in the country over the past decade.
“Despite the challenges they are all experiencing now ... aid is getting through and they are scaling up,” he added.
Islamic Relief aid worker Salah Aboulgasem told the BBC: “The priority right now is saving lives by clearing the rubble. The next priority is supporting people who have lost their homes and gone through huge trauma.
“People need medicines and warmth. There is a lot of screaming, people are trying to find relatives. A lot of people are sleeping in cars because they are scared to go back into the buildings due to aftershocks.”
Fears are mounting for survivors still trapped in the rubble as searches continue into a fourth day and rescue efforts continue to be hampered by damage caused to infrastructure and snowy conditions.
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, told the BBC that just 22 percent of people trapped in rubble survive 72 hours after an earthquake, adding: “Every minute counts now because the window to save lives is fast running out.”