linkedin twitter facebook github pinterest left right up down youtube instagram email menu close

Three Months After the Earthquake Disaster... Work Continues for Recovery.

The WhiteHelmets continue in their response efforts helping communities rehabilitate and recovery, however, there is still much work to be done.

Three months have passed since the catastrophic earthquake struck southern Turkey and northwestern Syria on Monday, February 6th, causing devastating losses in both lives and property. The earthquake's impact has been felt in various aspects of life, including housing, education, health, and services, with tens of thousands of families losing their homes in the wake of a humanitarian crisis. This disaster has compounded the years of displacement and war that the region has already experienced, with approximately two million people currently residing in displacement camps. The population is in dire need of support after losing their sources of livelihood, and infrastructure, water, and sewage lines have been destroyed in many areas, increasing the likelihood of disease outbreaks and posing a significant threat to people's lives. Unfortunately, the international humanitarian response has been weak, leaving many vulnerable populations without the assistance they desperately need.

The White Helmets have been working according to a three-phase plan of action to respond to the earthquake. The first phase involved emergency response efforts, which included searching for survivors and recovering the bodies of victims. The second and third phases of the response are being implemented through the institution's community resilience program. In the second phase, the focus is on opening roads and securing walls that pose a threat to civilians' lives, facilitating emergency response operations, and reopening lifelines that were closed by rubble. The third phase involves the removal of rubble, which is a critical step towards reviving affected communities and restoring infrastructure, allowing the population to begin rebuilding their lives. By following this plan of action, The White Helmets aim to help affected communities recover and rebuild in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake.

The First Phase: Search and Rescue Operations for Those Trapped Under the Rubble in the Affected Areas

The first phase of the earthquake response focused on search and rescue operations, with White Helmets teams arriving at the first sites of operation just seven minutes after the earthquake occurred. They quickly began search and rescue efforts in a wide geographical area that included 182 sites within 60 communities, where more than 551 buildings were completely destroyed and over 1578 were partially demolished. Through their tireless efforts, White Helmets volunteers rescued 2,950 people from under the rubble, while also recovering the bodies of 2,172 earthquake victims.

In addition to responding to the initial earthquake, White Helmets volunteers also provided aid during two subsequent earthquakes in Hatay, Turkey. These earthquakes, which occurred on February 20th and had magnitudes of 6.4 and 5.8 respectively, were felt by people in northwestern Syria. Ambulance teams from the White Helmets transported more than 180 people suffering from fractures, bruises, fainting, fear, and panic caused by the earthquakes. The two earthquakes also caused the collapse of a number of cracked walls and buildings in the areas previously affected by the earthquake.

More than 3,000 White Helmets cadres, including 2,500 volunteers, 300 female volunteers, and 200 administrative employees participated in these operations. Heavy machinery and necessary equipment were fully mobilized, and additional machinery was rented from local markets. The contribution of civilians and residents of the affected areas also enhanced the ability of the White Helmets to respond effectively in the face of international inaction and delay in the arrival of UN aid, which was supposed to arrive immediately after the disaster to help rescue those trapped under the rubble.

The Second Phase: Opening Roads and Removing Unstable Structures to Ensure Civilian Safety

After completing the search and rescue operations, White Helmets teams immediately began the second phase of their response to the earthquake disaster in northwestern Syria. During this stage, the teams focused on opening roads and demolishing unstable structures, including walls and ceilings, to ensure the safety of civilians and facilitate emergency response operations.

The teams paved 150,033 square meters of land with gravel to establish camps and collective shelters for the earthquake victims in 151 communities. Additionally, they opened 96,711 meters of roads in 157 communities to provide better access for emergency services. In 79 local communities, unstable structures were demolished to prevent further harm to civilians in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The Third Phase: Rubble Removal, Recovery, and Rehabilitation in Northwestern Syria

After the initial emergency response and opening roads, we focused on the third phase of their response to the earthquake disaster in northwestern Syria, which involved the removal of rubble, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts.

On March 9th, The White Helmets announced a comprehensive plan to remove rubble on a large scale, in coordination with local administrations, to ensure the rights and property of the owners of demolished real estate were preserved. This plan was an important step towards helping the affected communities recover and return to normalcy as soon as possible.

From February 6th to April 16th, we carried out 18,063 operations, including the removal of over 332,735 cubic meters of rubble in 106 communities. It's estimated that the total amount of rubble to be removed will exceed 350,000 cubic meters.

In addition to rubble removal, the operations also included logistical services to support the local community's resilience, such as establishing and equipping temporary camps and collective shelters for the displaced, sanitation efforts to prevent the spread of cholera, rehabilitation of sewage systems, removal of waste, and improvement of water supplies. 

Public Responses and Services:

Search and rescue operations after the earthquake disaster coincided with many accidents and emergencies that required intervention and response from The White Helmets, as it is the only institution that carries out this type of dangerous operations. Additionally, from April 16th to the same period, White Helmets volunteers responded to 183 traffic accidents in 86 communities, as well as 88 military attacks by the Assad regime and Russia.

The earthquake response did not hinder White Helmets teams from carrying out their routine services. Despite the challenging circumstances, they continued to provide first aid and health follow-up services at women and family centers. White Helmets ambulance teams also provided essential health services to approximately 20,634 patients, including 9,743 women and 2,626 children. These services included transportation for dialysis patients, handling internal medical emergencies, injuries and bruises, as well as assisting patients who require transportation back to their homes.

The Women and Family Centers provided health examinations and consultations to a total of 26,196 patients, out of which 17,566 were women and 6,080 were children. The health services offered by these centers included reproductive health, first aid, screening for non-communicable diseases, and follow-up treatment.

Awareness Activities

Awareness activities play a crucial role in the work of White Helmets teams in northwestern Syria, as they provide individuals with protection from the remnants of war, infectious diseases, and natural disasters. Even during the response to the recent earthquake, White Helmets volunteers continued conducting awareness campaigns in various fields, such as health education, disaster response, and campaigns against war remnants.

Between February 6 and April 16, The White Helmets organized 2,224 awareness activities that benefited 176,494 individuals, including 156,993 children and 9,802 women. These activities covered topics such as measles prevention, safe evacuation during earthquakes, and other health-related issues.

Despite the 90-day mark since the earthquake, White Helmets teams remain committed to their work at all levels. Our aim is to help those affected in northwestern Syria return to their normal lives, bridge the humanitarian needs gap left by the earthquake, and recover from the wounds of this devastating event. We continue to respond to emergencies and provide services to Syrians in northwestern Syria to alleviate the tragedies after over 12 years of war.