US State Secretary visits disaster areas in Turkey

US State Secretary visits disaster areas in Turkey
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Blinken and his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu have flown in helicopter from an air base in Adana to visit sites in the southern border province of Hatay.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Turkey on Sunday to visit earthquake stricken areas, and was greeted at Incirlik Air Base near the southern city of Adana by his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Blinken and Cavusoglu were taken by a helicopter to Turkey's southern border province of Hatay, which is among the worst hit areas in the earthquake zone.

Jeffry Flake, US ambassador to Ankara, also takes part in the visiting US delegation.

US and Turkish delegations are expected to hold discussions on how Washington can further assist Ankara as it grapples with the aftermath of a catastrophe that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

40,689 fatalities have been reported by Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD) as of Sunday, 13 days after the twin earthquakes struck on 6 February.

Settlements in ten provinces have been devastated by the quakes, the most severe damage being received in the provinces of Maras, Adiyaman, Antep, Hatay and Urfa.

At least two million survivors in Turkey are estimated to be left without home in the earthquake.

Also topping the agenda during Blinken's visit will be the stalled NATO bids of Sweden and Finland, which Turkey has so far refused to ratify, saying Stockholm is yet to fulfill the promises it made in the context of a trilateral deal in June last year. Ankara accuses Stockholm of harboring what it calls members of terrorist groups, and has recently indicated it would approve only Finland.