The United States is “ramping up” assistance to Turkey and Syria following the catastrophic earthquake that struck on Monday, the White House told reporters Friday. 

John Kirby, the White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has already deployed a disaster assistance and response team to Turkey.

Two additional urban search and rescue teams are also “conducting operations in support of Turkish rescue efforts” in the hardest-hit areas of Turkey, for a sum-total of 200 personnel, assisted with specialized equipment and canine support dogs, according to Kirby. He said the US is deploying assistance teams via Blackhawk helicopters from Incirlik Air Force Base in southern Turkey.

On Thursday, USAID announced $85 million in funding for the region to provide “emergency food and shelter for refugees and newly displaced people, winter supplies to help families brave the cold, critical health care services to provide trauma support, safe drinking water to prevent disease, and hygiene and sanitation assistance to keep people safe and healthy.”

In Syria, Kirby said, humanitarian partners are “urgently scaling up response efforts,” including the launch of charter flights carrying medical supplies, the distribution of hot meals and the deployment of 20 truckloads of medicine and food into the country, as a way to “underscore that US sanctions will not prevent or inhibit prohibiting humanitarian assistance in Syria.” 

He pointed to a license from the US Treasury that provides additional authorizations for humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. 

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