‘You have to find the small lights’: The challenges for quake-hit Turkey

For more than two decades, the World Bank has been helping Turkey with earthquake preparedness – providing funds and guidance to strengthen public buildings like schools and hospitals, improve emergency communications, and supply first-responder vehicles and equipment. Now Turkey and war-torn northern Syria are struggling with the aftermath of the deadliest temblor to hit this seismically sensitive region in the modern era. The initial Feb. 6 quake, with a magnitude of 7.8, as well as another major strike hours later and numerous aftershocks, has left more than 40,000 dead.  

The Monitor recently spoke with Alanna Simpson, the World Bank’s lead disaster risk-management specialist for Europe and Central Asia, to ask about the lessons of past earthquakes and Turkey’s preparedness and response to this quake – which the bank is aiding with nearly $2 billion. In phone and email interviews, Dr. Simpson, who has worked on seismic risks in Turkey since 2017, describes this country as actually a leader in earthquake response. “This type of event would strain any country irrespective of its level of preparedness,” she says.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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