You will remember that yesterday, in my report on quake-devastated Syria and Turkey, I said that the first organization to always jump in to help victims of natural and other disasters, was Caritas Internationalis. Scores of countries around the world have national Caritas offices, including both Syria and Turkey.
As you can see from the following communiqué, the Caritas offices in those countries were destroyed by the earthquake. This report, issued today in Rome by Caritas Internationalis, speaks to the damage to local offices, what they are doing in Syria and Turkey and how to help financially.
TURKEY AND SYRIA: EARTHQUAKE DESTROYS CARITAS OFFICES, BUT HUMANITARIAN WORKERS ENSURE ASSISTANCE
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has struck northwest Syria and Turkey has left thousands of people without shelter, food and fuel. Caritas Turkey and Caritas Syria were providing assistance from the very beginning and the Caritas Confederation is supporting and coordinating their efforts to assess the needs and deliver assistance to those affected by this tragedy. The earthquake-hit areas were already in a difficult humanitarian situation. The harsh winter temperatures and the destruction or severe damage to structures – including several hospitals – and roads further complicates humanitarian operations.
Riad Sargi, Director of Caritas Syria, explains that, “in Syria, the earthquake heavily impacted northwest Syria, an area where 4.1 million people depend on humanitarian assistance”. Around 5,000 displaced people, mostly women and children, have found shelter in schools and halls. The recorded deaths and injuries continue to rise as the search for missing persons among the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes continues. Hospitals in some of hardest-hit areas were overwhelmed as they worked to treat those injured by the earthquake.
Caritas Syria is working to provide relief items and opening shelters to accommodate those most in need in Aleppo, Hama and Lattakia. “It is very cold and continues to rain and snow. Many have lost their homes and even those who still have a home are not returning to it for fear of further shocks,” adds Sargi. In Aleppo, relief items and shelters for people whose houses were collapsed are needed. The office of Caritas Aleppo was destroyed, as were many houses belonging to staff.
In Turkey, the south-east provinces of the country including Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Malatya and Adana were affected by the earthquake and 42 aftershocks, the largest of which was 6.6 magnitude.
The Diocese of Anatolia region has been strongly affected by the earthquake and the Cathedral of Iskenderun totally collapsed. The offices of Caritas Anatolia were severely damaged. “Thank God the staff is fine, but we lost volunteers, beneficiaries and even relatives,” says Giulia Longo, Programme Manager of Caritas Turkey, who was in Italy at the time of the earthquake together with the organisation’s president, Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti, and is now returning to Turkey. “The president and I are alive by a miracle. If we had been in Iskenderun we probably would not have been saved,” Longo said.
Unscathed statue of Mary in Iskenderun cathedral –
Caritas Turkey immediately opened a Listening Center hotline to provide support and assistance to those affected by the disaster, and is currently working alongside local authorities to gather information and organise a humanitarian response. In addition, Caritas teams have been gathering displaced people in safe and open spaces and trying to distribute some hot meals and clothes.
The Caritas Confederation are combining their efforts and working together to provide humanitarian assistance to those most in need and ask for the continued support and prayers of the international community in alleviating the sufferings of the people in Syria and Turkey at this time.
Anyone wishing to support the work of these two Caritas organizations can do so through the Caritas Internationalis website: https://www.caritas.org/earthquake-syria-turkey/
FROM ASIA NEWS: The apostolic vicar of Anatolia (Turkey), Bishop Paolo Bizzeti spoke with AsiaNews. He is in Italy this week for a series of meetings, but he has been in contact – as much as possible given the broken communictaion lines – with the faithful and collaborators in the area.
“The cathedral of the vicariate in Iskenderun [the Church of the Annunciation, a 19th century building] has collapsed,” he adds, “all the buildings are uninhabitable” but so far “there are no victims” reported among the local Christian community.
Asia News – Annunciation Cathedral in Iskenderun –
The prelate is also president of Caritas Turkey and is already announcing ‘the opening of a subscription’ to help the local population. “The earthquake struck in the middle of the night, it was just after 4 a.m.” and this took most of the people who were sleeping in their homes by “surprise”. “A disastrous event,” he adds, and even now “the fear is great” for further, possible strong aftershocks that often follow the main quake. TURKEY Earthquake in Turkey, Bishop Bizzeti: in Iskenderun cathedral collapsed, ‘total disaster’ (asianews.it)