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The Inside Story-Earthquake TRANSCRIPT

The Inside Story-Earthquake THUMBNAIL skinny
The Inside Story-Earthquake THUMBNAIL skinny


The Inside Story: Earthquake

Episode 79 – February 16, 2023

Show Open:

Unidentified Narrator:

An earthquake kills tens of thousands of people ---

Leaving hundreds of thousands homeless in Turkey and Syria.

Unidentified Rescue Worker:

We don’t know if they are alive or dead but mostly dead bodies come out now.

Unidentified Narrator:

From rescue to recovery and survival amid the rubble ….

Now on The Inside Story --- Earthquake.

The Inside Story:

ANITA POWELL, VOA White House Correspondent:

Hi. I’m Anita Powell, VOA White House Correspondent.

It was 4:17 Monday morning, February 6th when the earth shook in south central Turkey and northern Syria.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake was followed by a 7.5 aftershock nine hours later.

The death toll is approaching 40-thousand.

Rescue operations are shifting to recovery efforts as families grimly watch and pray.

The epicenter was 33 kilometers west of Gaziantep --- a major city in an area of more than two-million people.

The big aftershock was centered about 80 kilometers north --- near the ancient city of Kahraman Maras, an area with about a million people.

Getting help to survivors has been hampered by geography and war. Dorian Jones begins our coverage from Istanbul.

DORIAN JONES, Reporting for VOA:

For many earthquake survivors, the painful wait continues for loved ones still buried in collapsed buildings as rescuers race against time to find survivors.

Selim, Earthquake Survivor:

Two of our relatives are under the rubble; they still could not take them out. So we are waiting; we don't know if they are alive or dead, but mostly dead bodies come out now. Some come out alive, but not many; we are waiting, God should not make anyone experience such a thing.


Successes still occur; six days after the quake, a U.S. search and rescue team dug out a survivor, part of a growing global effort to help.

But with over seven thousand buildings destroyed and many more uninhabitable, shelter is of critical importance with the region in the grip of bitter subzero temperatures. For many, just staying warm is a daily struggle.

Zeki, Earthquake Survivor:

I applied, but no one gave me a tent. I am taking care of orphaned children. The front of my house was utterly cracked, we were afraid to go back there. There are some places to shelter from the cold, like mosques, schools, and condolence houses, and these are the places we have been staying.


Many remote villages where temperatures drop to minus 20 Celsius are only now starting to receive assistance, thanks in many cases to local support groups.

Neighboring Syria too is only now starting to receive aid.

Aids groups warn assistance is desperately needed in the rebel-controlled Idlib province that was devastated by the quakes.

Souhaib Touliamat, ATAA Relief Agency:

The delay in accessing the aid and the humanitarian aid through the borders increased the vulnerability, increased the crisis, which is affecting the people over there


These medical supplies are approaching to be finished. And also, the logistic supplies for the civil defense are approaching to finish, including diesel for the equipment and the vehicles for evacuation.”

In Turkey, international assistance is picking up as the government faces criticism over the speed of its response to the disaster.

Those in shelters contemplate the painful reality they face.

Earthquake Survivor:

We are staying with four families in this tent. We have no heating; we have nothing. You can see this is all we have.


Survivors in Turkey and Syria face the prospect of having to rebuild with nothing, at a time when so many are grieving the loss of loved ones.

Dorian Jones, for VOA News, Istanbul.


Turkey’s government estimates the quake has caused 50-million dollars in damage. A Turkish business group puts the number closer to 80-million dollars.

Help is coming in from all corners in all kinds of ways --- from clothing to food to heavy construction equipment to individuals volunteering their time.

Bahri,Diyarbakir Resident:

Many of our neighbors died. We are so sad and wish to recover. We wish Turkey will recover. People are still under the rubble and we are already mourning. God bless those who died and bring healing to the injured.

Aydin Sisman, Relative of missing family members:

Right now, my mother-and father-in-law-are inside under rubble. I got here yesterday and there was no one here. There were no rescue teams. I went up by myself, took a look, walked around. I saw bodies and we pulled them out from under the rubble. Some without heads, there’s everything, believe me, it’s all there. If you ask people, 'Which building in Hatay wouldn’t collapse?’ They’d all point to this one. But this is the one that is in worst shape. We have Ukrainian guests who fled the war, and they are also laying inside. We have had no contact.

Hussein Waheed Hanan, Jinderis, Syria resident:

Eight family members were missing, we pulled out four and buried them with our own hands. The Civil Defence rescued three, and there is still a girl under the rubble, and until now, we don’t know anything about her. Today, I went to hospital and asked the father. He said, “My little daughter, who is 14-years-old, is she still under the rubble? She hasn’t been pulled out?” I said not yet. He said “she was sleeping in the bedroom alone.

Mazen, Aleppo Resident:

I was sleeping that time… I see something shaking. I heard my wife say “earthquake, earthquake.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General:

Today, I'm announcing that the United Nations is launching a $397 million U.S. dollar humanitarian appeal for the people of earthquake-ravaged Syria, and this will cover a period of three months.

We all know that lifesaving aid has not being getting in at the speed and scale needed. The scale of this disaster is one of the worst in recent memory. One week after the devastating earthquakes, millions of people across the region struggling for survival, homeless and in freezing temperatures.

We are doing all we can to change this, but much more is needed. And I have an urgent message to the international community: the human suffering from this epic natural disaster should not be made even worse by manmade obstacles. Excess, funding, supplies. Aid must get through from all sides to all sides, through all routes without any restrictions.


VOA’s Turkish Service and Kurdish Service are on the ground in Turkey and Syria trying to bring audiences there the latest information about rescue and recovery efforts along with where survivors can find help.

Mehmet Toroglu, Correspondent VOA Turkish Service:

There was a clear lack of coordination by the government and local authorities, like the governors, the local rescue groups, local branches, they were not mobilized fast enough by the government.

The situation on the ground is difficult. There's a serious problem of sheltering many people, as I said, are homeless, they lost their homes, they live outside on the streets, even if their building is safe. They prefer living outside either in the tents or especially significant number of people staying overnight in the cars. So there will have to be an effort a serious effort, maybe it will take years of rebuilding effort from right now.


I want to talk about the political fault lines that go through this region I'm talking about conflict across the border. I'm talking about allegations of repression, both in Syria and in Turkey. Why does that matter? Why does that make the impact of a natural disaster like this any different?

Mehmet Toroglu:

Well, I shouldn't say this is the first test of a big natural disaster, how Erdogan would handle the natural disaster in such a big scale after he brought he implemented the presidential system in in Turkey. This is the big one. So we will see how he will handle but as of right now on to the right now. There's, like you can we can say we can clearly say that he did not make a good beginning.

Everybody waited for, too long to give them to order them what to do. So everybody expected that word. Everybody was looking at that last mile. So that's why the beginning of the disaster that was the things were slower.


Can I ask you just about the presence of a large number of Syrian refugees in this area? How is this resonating for that community and also for Syrians in Syria who are seeing this happen to their relatives?

Mehmet Toroglu:

Yes, there was. There is the disparity in distributing the aid but if you look at the Syrian side, one thing actually stringers talk with the Syrians in the region, there are the Gaziantep, especially as you can see, as the capital of Syrian refugees, there are a significant number of Syrian refugees are there like, How can I describe they're saying that our country during the war had already collapsed on our heads and now here the same thing happened Turkey also collapse in our heads. We ended up being crushed on the run of the room, rumbling both countries.

So and also the in Turkey that maybe not from the political level. We look at the reaction attitude of Turkish people against the Turkish Syrian refugees. There's been an increasing level of animosity.

We look at the People's reaction done you look at the social media posts. Like for example, there is a far right party in Turkey victory party when you look at this party's leaders statements now. We can see that there is you know, from at least from some circles, there is a campaign negative campaign going on against Syrian refugees.


For refugees who fled Syria’s civil war, the earthquake adds another challenge to a group of people group of people beset with challenges.

From Mersin, Turkey, our Arif Aslan tracks a Syrian refugee family who are once again, facing hard times.

ARIF ASALAN, VOA Correspondent:

Mohammed Beko and his family had no choice but to flee the Turkish city of Hatay, one of the areas hit hardest by earthquakes on February 6 that has left thousands of people dead in Turkey and Syria.

Originally from the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, Beko and his family moved to Turkey in 2013 after fleeing civil war in their country.

The quake had a devastating impact on the Beko family, like so many other residents of Hatay.

Mohammed Beko, Syrian Refugee:

The entire house was destroyed. My father and aunt remained under the rubble. We kept digging for three hours to get them out. My aunt lost her life. God bless her soul. But my father survived. Thank God, he is fine.


After three days, Beko decided to move his family to the city of Mersin, which has been spared the devastation of the earthquake.

Mohammed Beko, Syrian Refugee:

We left the city because there were still aftershocks. While there, we stayed under a tent for three days. It was very cold, and my children couldn’t bear it. With every aftershock my children got more terrified.


While they feel safe in Mersin, the family has been living on the street with no place to stay. With processing the scale of the devastation and grieving for the loss of his loved ones in Turkey and Syria, Beko says the future is uncertain, once again.

For Arif Aslan in Mersin, Turkey, Sirwan Kajjo, VOA News.


Among the first responders to these kinds of catastrophes is the search and rescue team from Fairfax County --- about 10 kilometers from here.

VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias tells us they are joining others from the U.S. trying to help.


Syrian refugees in Turkey and those who have been displaced in northwest Syria are among the most vulnerable and have the greatest need for food and other assistance, UNICEF said on Tuesday.

The United States has joined several other nations to support relief efforts.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary:

We are in the process of deploying additional teams to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquakes. U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.


Mobilized by USAID, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team prepped for deployment to Turkey.

John Morrison, Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team:

We have about 60,000 pounds of equipment here, we are loading 79 people with 6 rescue dogs.


Health concerns will also need to be addressed, notes the U.S.-based humanitarian organization “Project Hope.”

Arlan Fuller, Project HOPE:

Whether that be waterborne diseases or airborne diseases that are spread through communities that are now living in very close proximity and shelters, you will have a number of different disease vectors that will arise after the first few days of a disaster.


For those who want to help, the non-profit Global Giving has some advice.

Sandrina da Cruz, Disaster Response Director at GlobalGiving:

Cash is first and foremost the most important way to donate. And that is because the needs on the ground fluctuate so quickly. Look at the organizations on Charity Navigator in order to be able to verify that is a trusted charity entity.


Humanitarian workers say it could take weeks for the emergency in Turkey and Syria to move to the recovery phase.

Veronica Balderas Iglesias, VOA News, Washington.


Among the challenges facing the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the earthquake is managing through winter temperatures.

While it rarely gets that cold in Los Angeles, a mobilization is underway to get warm clothing and other essentials to those who need it.

Details from L.A. and our Angelina Baghasaryan.


Since early morning, Los Angeles residents have been bringing humanitarian aid – including warm clothes and other essentials – to this mosque so that it can be sent to Turkey and Syria.

Rauf Patel, King Fahad Mosque Director:

We are collecting winter clothes for Turkey’s people. As we know Turkey had a really big disaster and at this point any human – of Muslim or non-Muslim faith – if they get hurt, we feel we need to help. So, we are helping each and every person.

Suleiman, Los Angeles Resident:

We must respond. I have sent some clothes here; what we need more of is blankets and winter clothes like this.


Residents throughout California are stepping up with aid for earthquake survivors

across the ocean.

Nurdan Civi is a singer and a volunteer in Northern California.

For years, she’s been collecting money to help Turkish children to get an education.

Nurdan Civi, Volunteer:

Maybe instead of sending kids to school and giving them scholarships, maybe we’re going to use the funds to build new schools. So, we will use the funds for meeting more essential needs.


Businessman Murat Karslioglu has sent all the trucks from his firm to transport humanitarian aid from collection centers to the airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Most boxes contain warm clothing and hygiene essentials for women and small children.

Murat Karslioglu, Bakkal Corporation CEO:

The only thing we can do from here is to provide them with things they need to survive – blankets, tents, because the next three to six months at least will be very difficult for them. And even after that, recovery will take a year, maybe longer.


US rescue teams along with their search dogs are also on the way to help, and they are taking tons of humanitarian aid with them.

Californians know all too well about this kind of catastrophe. The state, itself, is situated on the very active San Andreas fault, making the region susceptible to powerful and dangerous earthquakes.

For Angelina Bagdasaryan in Los Angeles, California, Anna Rice, VOA News.


Before we go, a development here in the United States that has more questions than answers.

Less than a week after the U.S. downed what officials say was a Chinese surveillance balloon, the U.S. military shot down three more flying objects of unknown origin.

Chinese officials say they can’t say whether the newly downed objects are theirs but say the U.S. is overreacting.

Amid the questions, one thing is clear: China-U.S. relations have taken a hit.

There are many questions about the three unidentified flying objects the U.S. military has shot down in as many days. Here’s one thing the White House can say with confidence:

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary:

There is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns. We wanted to make sure that the American people knew that all, that all of you knew that it was important for us to say that.

Unidentified Reporter:

The truth is out there, Karine. ((laughter))


But seriously, White House officials offered one theory on why the military is suddenly finding more of these flying vessels: because these are the objects they’re looking for.

John Kirby, National Security Council:

If you set the parameters in such a way to look for a certain something, it's more likely that you're going to find a certain something.


On Friday, less than a week after downing a Chinese balloon over the eastern shore of the United States, the U.S. military shot down a UFO over Alaska. On Saturday, the U.S. worked with the Canadian military to take down another over the Yukon territory. And on Sunday, a third was shot from the sky into Lake Huron.

People should not panic, Kirby said.

John Kirby, National Security Council:

We do not assess that these most recent objects pose any threat to people on the ground, and we are laser-focused on confirming their nature and purpose.


But if the truth is out there, it’s clouded by China’s anger over what they say is unfair U.S. punishment for a weather balloon that simply drifted off course and across the entire continental U.S.

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, accused Washington of being “trigger-happy.” He did not say whether the three recent objects were Chinese but fired a volley of accusations at Washington.

Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry:

The U.S.’ abuse of force, overreaction and escalation of the situation goes against the spirit of international law and against international practice. Now (they are) hyping up, exaggerating and exacerbating (the situation), using this as an excuse to illegally sanction Chinese enterprises and organizations. China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposes this.


The White House said there is no current plan for President Joe Biden to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Kirby said the Chinese military is “not interested” in speaking to the U.S. defense secretary. He also repeated claims that the U.S. does not have surveillance aircraft in Chinese airspace.

That, says analyst Emily Harding, sets up tension with Beijing and raises serious questions for Washington – questions that Kirby could not answer when asked on Monday.

Emily Harding, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

I think the message sent to Beijing is, ‘Hey, we caught you. We know what you're up to. Cut it out.’ I think the more interesting question right now for the Pentagon is going to be, what are the rules of engagement on these? Suddenly, we found these objects that are floating over the northern United States – and are we going to try and shoot down every single one of them that floats over the airspace or are we going to come up with a much better way of determining what is and is not a national security threat?


And, she said, the conspiracy theories floating around the internet raise another concern.

Emily Harding, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

When we have so little information out in the public, it's very easy for misinformation and disinformation, conspiracy theories to spread. There's been some, I think, well-intentioned joking about this on the interwebs over the weekend, but at the same time, like, you don't really know you don't want to speculate and spread potential missing disinformation.


Which leaves the biggest question of all: once investigators learn what the objects are and what they were doing – what then?

Stay up to date on that story, the earthquake recovery, and the rest of the news at

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I’m Anita Powell. See you next week for The Inside Story.