When we heard the news that two very strong earthquakes, and many more in between and after, had struck Turkey and Syria, we were all deeply affected. 

The immediate reaction from around the world was one of great sadness and concern about the enormous consequences for Syria, already ravaged by a very long and bloody war, and for a large area of southeastern Turkey.

Within a few hours, the news spread about the magnitude of a huge catastrophe that has reached ever-increasing numbers, with more than 21,000 victims to date, including more than 3,000 in Syria and more than 17,000 in Turkey, affecting ten provinces of the Turkish country, and causing the destruction of more than 6,500 buildings.

In addition to the enormous and sudden loss of life, the value of which is priceless and irreplaceable, the lucky survivors, though safe, found themselves without many of their loved ones, with no safe place to shelter from the adverse weather conditions and severe cold.

Rescuing actions after an earthquake
Photo: UNCHR
Rescuing actions after an earthquake
The huge disaster that hit a total of ten cities among which are some of the leading textile regions including Kahramanmaras, Gaziantep, Malatya and Adana, will have very harsh consequences not only for the Turkish people and the local textile and garment sector, but also for the entire international garment and denim industry, as the affected districts hosting companies including Sahiyn, Bossa, Tüsa, Kipas and Calik are major production centers for cotton fabrics, greige fabrics and denim, as well as cotton yarn, cellulosic and other fibers, and finished garments. 

The Maras region alone, home to major companies such as Kipas, Iskur, Maritas and Tüsa, many of which are vertically integrated mills, produces 36% of the textile fibers produced in the country. 

Although most of the companies in the affected areas did not suffer physical damage, much of the machinery will have to be reinstalled before production can resume, while it will be difficult to return to normal and resume production in the immediate future because many of their workers, if they survived, lost their homes, loved ones and all comforts of basic goods and services, including electricity, water, passable roads and transportation.

In contrast, Iskur, another important company in the Kahramanmaras area, suffered significant damage from a fire caused by the earthquake and the resulting loss of lives.

There are other areas of the country that have not been affected by this disaster, such as Istanbul, Bursa, Denizli and Tekirdağ, but their production capacity is neither sufficient nor comparable to that of the affected companies, which will not be able to resume operations for a long time.

Although the situation in Turkey today is extremely difficult and seems to have no way out, some signs of hope and desire for recovery have immediately emerged from inside the country, and abroad, and notably throughout the industry.

Influential Turkish families that own important holdings including Calik, Kipas and Sanko within the affected regions immediately and generously showed their willingness to help those affected by opening their own places of various kinds, including schools, hospitals, and shopping malls, to house those in need of shelter in safe places. 

Calik's production facilities in Malatya, for example, were not physically damaged. As a result, the company has also set up about 1,000 beds on its premises to accommodate those who have nowhere to sleep, and is serving three freshly cooked meals a day to those who can only eat on site or take them away.

The race for solidarity does not end there. Among the examples of immediate commitment, many countries have offered their help by sending supplies and funds.

Many local and international companies have helped in a variety of ways, either by donating large sums of money, bringing concrete aid to the earthquake sites, or distributing blankets, clothing and basic necessities.

In Turkey, Sirikcioglu began building a village of prefabricated houses, and LCW Waikiki donated 11 million of Turkish Lira, 1.6 billion articles of clothing, 36,000 blankets, and 50,000 pieces of body-wrapping cloth, as well as providing hot meals to those affected by the earthquake.

The OTB Foundation, the foundation of Renzo Rosso's OTB Group, owner of many fashion brands including Diesel, is already working to help the Turkish and Syrian populations affected by the earthquake through a partner such as UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with which it has been working for several years and on several fronts, such as in Italy in 2012 and 2016 in Emilia Romagna and Amatrice, and in China, in Sichuan in 2008 and in Haiti in 2010.

Rescued children after an earthquake
Photo: UNCHR
Rescued children after an earthquake
Four days after the devastating earthquake, it mobilized its field operations to come to the aid of refugees and refugee camps, particularly in the two countries.

In Syria, emergency relief kits containing thermal blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, water containers, winter clothing and other essential items are being distributed in Aleppo, Homs and Tartus, some of the hardest hit areas. While a procurement operation is underway to bring in additional supplies, through the OTB Foundation it is possible to make donations.

Fast Retailing, the holding behind Uniqlo, among other brands, wiil donate one million euros and 40,000 relief winter clothes to UNHCR, as part of their ongoing humanitarian response.

Other major companies have responded immediately with concrete support in the form of cash donations, humanitarian aid and clothing. These include Adidas, Bestseller, H&M, Hugo Boss, Inditex and Marks & Spencer.

This is just the beginning of finding solutions to a situation that needs everyone's help and commitment. Of course, more can be done to save and support these populations. The fashion industry has the opportunity to help make people feel better, even in the harshest conditions, because that is one of its fundamental purposes.

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