Feb 10, 2023
This story was last updated: February 9 @ 11:20 PM EST.
A national emergency is a make-or-break moment for any political leader. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is struggling to react quickly to the earthquake that ruined much of his country. The crisis comes at a critical time in his career. He stands for re-election in May.
More than 21,000 Turks and Syrians have died in the February 6 quake. The number keeps rising. More than 380,000 have been left homeless. Health and rescue groups warn that if the Turkish government fails to provide for newly homeless people, it will face a second disaster.
"We've got a lot of people … out in the open," a World Health Organization manager told the BBC. "We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster."
Syria accounts for about one-fifth of the death toll. There, President Bashar al-Assad’s government has blamed Western sanctions and civil war for its slow rescue efforts.
Turkish voters replaced their parliamentary form of government with a presidential system. Since then, Erdoğan’s government has restricted the power of local governments and aid groups. Critics say that has hurt relief efforts. After a 1999 quake, Turkey put a new tax in place for earthquakes. They used the money, though, to build highways.
“Where is that money?” a Turkish opposition leader told NPR. “It’s gone.”
Photo from Reuters.
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