U.S. deploys disaster response team following earthquake in Turkey, Syria

The United States has deployed a team of disaster response specialists after a massive earthquake in Turkey and northwest Syria killed thousands, Al Jazeera reported.

The death toll has passed 5,000 in Turkey and Syria, with 5,775 buildings confirmed collapsed.

As the scale of the devastation from the 7.8 magnitude tremor continued to unfold, the World Health Organization warned the number of casualties could exceed 20,000.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement that the Disaster Assistance Response Team “will work in close coordination with Turkish authorities on the front lines, as well as with our partners on the ground and agencies across the U.S. government.”

The State Department promised that while the U.S. is committed to helping residents on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border, it has ruled out dealing directly with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, which it does not recognize as legitimate, CNN reports.

President Joe Biden spoke with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Monday to offer condolences and reaffirm Washington’s readiness to assist in rescue efforts, the White House said.

Biden “noted that US teams are deploying quickly to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and coordinate other assistance that may be required by people affected by the earthquakes, including health services or basic relief items”, said a White House statement.

Two earthquakes, followed by powerful aftershocks, hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early on Monday, causing widespread destruction and trapping thousands under the rubble, Reuters reports.

Thousands of buildings collapsed in both countries and aid agencies are particularly worried about northwestern Syria, where more than 4 million people were already relying on humanitarian assistance.

The earthquake in Turkey is one of the strongest to hit the region in more than a century. It struck 14.2 miles east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, at a depth of 14.9 miles.

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