U.S. promises swift aid to Turkey and Syria after deadly earthquake

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The U.S. is moving quickly to send assistance to Turkey and Syria, President Joe Biden said Monday, after a powerful earthquake and aftershocks left more than 3,400 people dead as of Monday afternoon.

“My Administration has been working closely with our NATO Ally Turkiye, and I authorized an immediate U.S. response. At my direction, senior American officials reached out immediately to their Turkish counterparts to coordinate any and all needed assistance,” Biden said in a statement. “Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake. U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.”

Following Biden’s statement, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that it had deployed a disaster assistance response team that will assist Turkish authorities with search and rescue. USAID will also deploy search-and-rescue teams from fire departments in Los Angeles County and Fairfax County, Va., the organization’s administrator, Samantha Power, said in a statement.

The deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake toppled hundreds of residential buildings in Turkey and Syria early Monday morning local time, according to reporting from The Associated Press. Hours later, a 7.5-magnitude aftershock struck just 60 miles away, near the Turkish city of Sanliurfa.The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers continue to dig through the rubble across both countries.

The U.S. response “is already underway,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday. “We are determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”

Late Sunday evening, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the White House was “profoundly concerned” by initial reports of the devastation caused by the quake, adding that the U.S. was “ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” to the region.

“President Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess U.S. response options to help those most affected,” Sullivan said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the Government of Turkiye.”

The earthquake was felt as far away as Cairo, and impacted a swath of land stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Diyarbakir in Turkey, according to The Associated Press.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries pledged to work with the White House to deliver aid to the region.

“House Democrats will work with President Biden and the administration to provide the support and assistance of USAID as a complete response is assessed, and I will work with my colleagues on all levels of government to extend additional help during this time of urgent need. My prayers are with all affected by this tremendous and tragic loss of life,” Jeffries said in a statement Monday.