Earthquake destruction ‘bleak beyond belief’ says minister

- Advertisement -

The situation in the areas devastated by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria is “bleak beyond belief”, the aid minister has said.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell suggested the death toll could reach 50,000 but praised British support for the relief effort.

An appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee has raised more than £60 million in just three days and UK specialists are on the scene helping to search for survivors.

Mr Mitchell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It’s bleak beyond belief, it is the worst crisis, the worst earthquake we have faced certainly since Nepal (2015), probably since Haiti (2010).”

On Sunday morning, the death toll stood at more than 28,000 but he backed the assessment of UN relief chief Martin Griffiths that it could dramatically increase.

He added: “I think that the figure that the UN emergency co-ordinator has given yesterday when he was in the region of 50,000 is the right figure, I fear, that we’re going to see.”

Mr Mitchell said there is “good organisation” of the relief effort in Turkey, but in the “ungoverned space” of war-torn Syria the situation is more difficult.

He said: “Two flights took off last night to help, one from RAF Brize Norton in Britain, one from our stores in Dubai, taking tents and blankets into Turkey, and much of that of course is bound for Syria.

“It is in Syria that the international community is far more stretched.”

Mr Mitchell said the UK is able to get funding in despite sanctions imposed on Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria but acknowledged that the restrictions may have to be eased if they become a barrier to the aid effort.

The US has temporarily eased sanctions on Syria, and Mr Mitchell told the BBC: “Where sanctions would hold us back in any way, we would seek to have them lifted, but at the moment we are able to get what we want through. And that’s the key thing.”

Mr Mitchell, who was highly critical of the Government’s decision to slash its aid budget when he was on the backbenches, said now he is back on the front bench he is operating from “inside the tent to ensure that we work to good effect”.

The UK abandoned its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid and will only return to that figure when the public finance situation allows.

“As far as I’m concerned that cannot come soon enough,” Mr Mitchell told the BBC.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.