In the aftermath of the earthquake in eastern Turkey, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has begun collecting funds for relief efforts. Responding to initial reports of hundreds of deaths and wide-spread building collapse, JDC is working with its local partners – including Turkey’s Jewish community – to ensure the victims’ immediate needs are addressed. JDC’s past humanitarian interventions in Turkey have included the provision of aid and training after earthquakes in 2010 and 1999. JDC staff experts are currently determining what next steps are necessary, especially in the hardest-hit Van Province.

The 7.2 earthquake is the most powerful to hit Turkey in a decade and was centered around the city of Ercis, north of Van. As rescue crews continue search operations, aftershocks plague the region.

According to an on-the-scene report published in Haaretz, “Large portions of the city were still without electricity last night and most of the stores were closed. Judging by the stores that were open, there didn’t seem to be food shortages. Official Turkish government reports last night put the death toll at 279, with hundreds still trapped, but most Van residents believe the number of dead is far higher.”

Israel is one of several countries that has offered assistance; all have been refused. Haaretz continues, “The ability to cope alone with the aftermath of an earthquake has become a point of pride for the Turks, after they had to accept extensive foreign help following a devastating earthquake that hit the country’s northwest in 1999.”

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