US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took a helicopter ride on Sunday in one of the provinces worst hit by the February 6 earthquake in the southern Turkey and northern Syria and pledged an additional $100 million in aid to help the region.

“This is going to be a long-term effort,” Blinken said at Incirlik Air Base, a joint U.S.-Turkish facility that has been coordinating the distribution of disaster relief. “The search and rescue is unfortunately coming to an end. The recovery is ongoing and then there will be a massive reconstruction operation.”

Read more:

Turkey earthquake: Death toll passes 46,000 as rescue efforts continue

Read next:

‘We kind of missed the landing’: Alberta premier on awkward handshake with premier

President Joe Biden announced $85 million for Turkey and Syria days after the earthquake that has killed more than 44,000 people in the two countries. The US has also sent a search and rescue team, medical supplies and equipment.

The story continues below the ad

The additional support includes $50 million in emergency refugee and migration funds and $50 million in humanitarian aid, Blinken said.

The foreign minister is making his first trip to NATO ally Turkey since taking office two years ago. Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Base, near Adana, on Sunday after attending the security conference in Munich, Germany.

He toured Turkey’s toured Hatay province from the air with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. He was expected to meet with American and Turkish service personnel, as well as Turkish military families affected by the earthquake.

“When you see the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of apartments, the number of homes that have been destroyed, it’s going to take a massive effort to rebuild,” the top US diplomat said after the helicopter tour.

“The most important thing right now is to get help to people who need it, to get them through the winter and to get them back on their feet,” Blinken said as nearby troopers unloaded aid boxes… We’re sticking with it until we get the job done.”

Click to play the video:

Earthquake in Turkey: Rescuers continue to raise hope 12 days after disaster

Incirlik, home to the US Air Force’s 39th Airlift Wing, has been a crucial logistics center for aid distribution. Supplies from around the world have been flown into the base and sent by truck and helicopter to those in need, including in hard-to-reach villages.

The story continues below the ad

Blinken will fly to Ankara, the Turkish capital, later Sunday for discussions with Turkish officials on Monday, including an expected meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In addition to the effects of the earthquake, Blinken is expected to discuss Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO, which Turkey has delayed.

© 2023 The Canadian Press