US gives $100 mln for Turkey and Syria quake aid, Blinken tells Ankara: ‘US is here’

A general view of damage following a deadly earthquake, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu take a helicopter tour of earthquake stricken areas of Hatay Province, Turkey February 19, 2023. (Reuters)

The US will provide an additional $100 million in aid for the earthquake response in Turkey and Syria, on top of the previously announced $85 million, the State Department said on Sunday, while the Secretary of State assured Ankara that the “US is here.”

President Joe Biden intends to authorize $50 million in Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Funds (ERMA) and $50 million in humanitarian assistance through the State Department and USAID.

“This humanitarian assistance will target vulnerable earthquake-affected populations in Turkey and Syria and be available to support international and nongovernmental organizations providing assistance,” the State Department said in a statement.

The new aid package will also serve to benefit the procurement and distribution of essential relief and lifesaving items such as blankets, mattresses, food packs, warm clothing, tents, and shelter materials.

It will also support medicine and health services, clean water and sanitation efforts, and programs supporting the education of children and youth impacted by the earthquake.

The announcement of this new aid package comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken makes his first trip to Turkey to offer support to the NATO ally.

Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Force Base which the US has used as a base of operations to carry out its relief efforts.

He took a helicopter tour of Hatay province, one of the worst-hit areas by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake which struck Turkey and northern Syria on February 6 and killed more than 45,000 people in both countries.

Blinken told reporters at the base: “This is going to be a long-term effort… When you see the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of apartments, the number of homes that have been destroyed, it is going to take a massive effort to rebuild but we are committed to supporting Turkey in that effort.”

He added: “The most important thing right now is getting assistance to people… Simply put, the United States is here.”

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