Blinken says Turkey earthquake destruction "hard to put into words," promises $100M more in U.S. aid
Ankara, Turkey — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday praised the support provided by Americans following the devastating Feb. 6 earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria. In a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Blinken said the U.S. government had responded "within hours" to the disaster and had so far sent hundreds of personnel and relief supplies.
But he said that ordinary Americans had also responded to "heartbreaking" images from the quake zone, where nearly 45,000 people have died.
"We have nearly $80 million in donations from the private sector in the United States, (from) individuals. When I visited the Turkish Embassy in Washington, I almost couldn't get in the front door because boxes were piled high throughout the driveway to the embassy," Blinken said.
"Turkey faces a long road ahead to support those rendered homeless and to rebuild … and we're committed to providing support."
Cavusoglu welcomed U.S. support in the aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck early that morning, which was followed by a 7.5 temblor only nine hours later.
"I would like to thank them for not leaving us alone during these challenging times," he said.
Blinken was making his first trip to NATO ally Turkey since he was appointed two years ago. On Sunday, he took a helicopter tour with Cavusoglu of Hatay, one of the provinces worst hit by the earthquake.
"It's hard to put into words," Blinken said Monday. "Countless buildings, communities, streets, damaged or fully destroyed."
He also met with U.S. and Turkish military personnel and aid workers at Incirlik Air Base near Adana. They have been working to provide vital aid and assistance to the disaster zone. Blinken promised a further $100 million in aid to help Turkey and Syria. President Joe Biden announced $85 million for Turkey and Syria days after the earthquake.
CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio said half of the newly-pledged aid for the two nations would come from a U.S. government fund dedicated to help refugees, and the other $50 million from a more general humanitarian relief fund.
Incirlik, home to the U.S. Air Force's 39th Air Base Wing, has been a crucial logistics center for aid distribution. Supplies from around the world have been flown into the base and sent by truck and helicopter to those in need, including in difficult to reach villages.
Describing his meeting with U.S. aid officials and military at base base, as well as search and rescue teams "from Los Angeles to Fairfax County in Virginia," Blinken added: "All of them have seen the staggering toll of this catastrophe. All of them are committed to being there for our friends in this moment."
Blinken is scheduled to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later Monday. As well as the effects of the earthquake, they are expected to discuss the bids to join NATO by Sweden and Finland that Turkey has delayed, and Russia's war in Ukraine.
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