Members of Virginia’s Task Force 1 are back home after spending nearly two weeks assisting recovery efforts in Turkey following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6 that left an estimated 45,000 people dead in Turkey and Syria.
A team of nearly 80 physicians, paramedics, emergency planners, and rescue dogs based in the Fairfax County area departed for the earthquake zone on February 6. For 11 days, Virginia Task Force 1 sorted through rubble, searching for survivors and providing aid to the injured and displaced.
The historic earthquake destroyed thousands of buildings throughout Turkey and Syria, leaving more than a million people homeless as frigid winter weather grips the region. More than 6,000 aftershocks have been recorded since, including a 6.3 magnitude aftershock that rattled the Syria-Turkey border on Monday, killing at least six more and injuring hundreds.
“Seeing what earthquakes can do in pictures, in media and then being on the ground and actually seeing it first-hand, it was very, very eye-opening,” Virginia Task Force 1 team member Andrew Johnson told WUSA9. “It was a lot to take in. But given the resources, the structure and the training that USAID has given us, we went right to work.”
The Task Force, which has been affiliated with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance since 1986, is just one element of U.S.-provided assistance that currently totals about $185 million. Additional disaster response personnel from USAID are remaining behind to assist in long-term recovery efforts, the report said.
During a visit to Turkey on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asserted that the U.S. would remain a prominent partner in recovery efforts that are expected to cost billions of dollars, according to a Reuters report.
“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,” Blinken said.
Blinken also thanked the Virginia Task Force 1 for its help in Turkey.
Feature image courtesy USAID/Facebook
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