Blinken, in Turkey, pledges $100 million more in earthquake aid

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged an additional $100 million in humanitarian aid to Turkey after he toured the earthquake-hit southeastern part of the country on Sunday.

Blinken arrived in Turkey on Sunday for an official visit and discussions on how Washington can further assist Ankara as it grapples with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people.

After arriving at Incirlik Air Base, Blinken took a helicopter tour of the quake-struck area with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“I just had a chance to fly over today to see some of the devastation and it’s really hard to put into words,” Blinken said. “Today, I can announce that we will be bringing in another $100 million to assist those who are so desperately in need.”

Since the earthquake, the United States has sent a search and rescue team to Turkey, along with medical supplies, concrete-breaking machinery and additional funding of $85 million in humanitarian aid that also covers Syria.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s southeast and neighboring Syria on Feb. 6, killing more than 45,000 people and leaving a million-plus people homeless, with the economic cost of the disaster expected to run into billions of dollars.

Blinken acknowledged that there have been serious logistical barriers to getting aid into Syria, but pledged to step up aid efforts regardless of US sanctions on the regime.

“We’ll do everything we can, including making sure, for example, that there is absolutely no doubt that whatever sanctions exist on Syria do not affect the provision of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Blinken later thanked staff from the US Agency for International Development for their efforts to help victims of the earthquake.