Blinken thanks White Helmets for 'heroic efforts' during Syria earthquake response

Blinken thanks White Helmets for 'heroic efforts' during Syria earthquake response
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with White Helmets representatives, saying the US is 'proud' to support the humanitarian response group.
2 min read
21 February, 2023
Blinken expressed his 'heartfelt condolences to the Syrian people', according to the White Helmets [Getty]

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with representatives of the Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets, in Turkey on Sunday, praising their response to earthquakes that devastated northern Syria earlier this month.

Blinken thanked the White Helmets for their "heroic efforts" when rescuing Syrians buried under rubble following twin 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes in southern Turkey on 6 February, which toppled buildings in Idlib and Aleppo provinces, where the group is active.

The earthquakes killed at least 47,000 people, with rescuers lacking the resources and heavy equipment needed to help many of those stuck under rubble or recover bodies, but still managing to assist thousands affected by the earthquake.

"Thank you for your heroic efforts to rescue Syrians after the earthquakes. The United States is proud to support you and other organisations providing life-saving aid in response to this tragedy," Blinken tweeted.

The White Helmets said they met with the US's lead diplomat "to discuss the response to the earthquake in [northwest] Syria, the humanitarian situation, ways to support affected civilians and mechanisms for achieving early recovery".

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Farouk Habib, deputy director of the White Helmets also expressed gratitude for the "direct [and] timely aid" provided by the US to help affected communities.

"Secretary Blinken expressed his heartfelt condolences to the Syrian people for the victims of the earthquake. He commended the White Helmets and the search and rescue teams for their heroic efforts and operational expertise in responding to the disaster," the White Helmets said.

Blinken was also briefed on the current situation in Syria, the needs of affected communities, and the ways to address them.

Following Blinken's visit to Turkey, after which he headed to Greece, a new 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the border region of Syria and Turkey.

The quake caused the walls of badly damaged buildings to crumble, with six people killed.