A senior US diplomat has said that the US will continue to work through the “long haul” to support those affected by major earthquakes that struck Türkiye’s southern provinces.
“When friends are in need at their darkest hour, that is when we are there for each other,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Erika Olson told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
“Türkiye has been there for the United States throughout the years. And we are there for Türkiye during this time. So, we will continue to do that,” she said when asked how “earthquake diplomacy” will affect relations between the two countries.
“We will continue to work together to help support the people and appreciate the cooperation that we have with the government of Türkiye,” she said.
Olson was part of a US delegation that accompanied US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Türkiye late last month, where he toured earthquake-hit Hatay province, the Incirlik Air Base in Adana, and had meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara.
She served as an economic counsellor for the US Mission in Türkiye between 2016 and 2019, where she spent time in southern provinces that were affected by the recent earthquakes.
‘US with Türkiye through long haul’
Olson said it was “heartbreaking” seeing the destruction by the earthquakes.
“And myself, personally, and the United States, we’re really happy to be able to stand with the people of Türkiye and to help provide assistance as they recover from what is an incomprehensible natural disaster,” she said.
Regarding US assistance in the aftermath of the quakes, Olson said Washington has been in touch with the Turkish government from the “very beginning,”
“As the secretary (Bilken) said: the United States is with Türkiye through the long haul when it comes to recovery.”
Mobile hospital in Hatay province
Noting that teams from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and urban search and rescue teams were on the ground “immediately following the earthquake,” she said, adding, the US is also building a mobile hospital in Hatay to help victims.
The 100-person field hospital, which has been set up by the US military and USAID, will be handed to the Turkish Ministry of Health on March 7, she said.
The hospital focuses “on intensive care and surgery needs that will be there to support the people of the region,” according to the diplomat.
The US has announced a total of $185 million in humanitarian assistance to Türkiye and Syria following the 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes, centred in the Kahramanmaras province, that have killed more than 45,000 in Türkiye and 6,000 in Syria, and affected millions of others.
Asked how the funds are being distributed, Olson said they are being used in “many different ways,” such as providing mobile hospitals, medical needs, food and immediate needs as well as sanitary, hygiene.
“But as the Secretary just announced the additional 100 million, how that will be used going into the future will depend on the needs and the conversations that we have with those in the ground,” she said.
Olson said the US private sector raised more than $100 million to help people affected by the quakes as she praised the efforts of ordinary Americans.