(RNS) — In the wake of what may be Turkey’s deadliest earthquake, Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian humanitarian relief organization, announced it would send a 52-bed emergency field hospital to the city of Antakya, historically known as Antioch.
The organization, run by founder and president the Rev. Franklin Graham, said it will also send more than 100 medical and technical staff to the ravaged region, a spokesperson said. Some have already departed.
Official counts Thursday (Feb. 9) topped 20,000 dead in the earthquakes that devastated southern Turkey and Syria on Monday. The twin temblors of massive 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude came within 10 hours of each other.
The field hospital will include two emergency operating rooms and a pharmacy. A chartered 747 aircraft was expected to take off from Atlanta to Turkey Thursday evening carrying roughly 90 metric tons of cargo, including hygiene items, solar lights and tarps, a spokesperson said.
“It is cold there and survivors are in shock — they need our help,” Graham said in a statement.
As Antioch, one of the Roman Empire’s largest cities, Antakya was an influential center of early Christianity. The Crusaders later seized it and it has been reconquered numerous times. It had a population of nearly 400,000.
The war in Ukraine has been drawing much of Samaritan’s Purse’s relief efforts over the past year, but in any given year, the organization aids people in 110–120 countries.
For nearly a decade it has designed and assembled emergency field hospitals. In the past two years it put them to use to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy; the Bahamas; New York City; Los Angeles; Jackson, Mississippi; and Lenoir, North Carolina.
It has also built up a corps of Christian doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who volunteer on short-term trips to mission hospitals across the world.
Also on Thursday, the United Nations sent its first aid convoy into Syria. Rescue crews are frantically searching through collapsed buildings and ruins for trapped survivors. Many are sheltering in tents.
Other international Christian relief organizations are responding to the crisis, including World Vision, Send Relief, and Aid to the Church in Need, Christianity Today reported. Turkish and Syrian Christians have also responded, working alongside the local Red Crescent and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.