image Photo: Reuters

World rushes to help Turkey, Syria

[Ed. Note / Update: As of 9 February, there are over 400 members of Israel’s Olive Branches delegation on the ground helping rescue and relief efforts in Turkey, along with hundreds of Israeli NGO and civil society volunteers, while more than 15 aircraft have brought humanitarian workers and emergency assistance. Among Turkish civilians extricated from the rubble and given lifesaving medical care by the Israeli teams was a 7-year-old little girl from a collapsed building in Kharmanmaras earlier today].

The combined death toll from Monday’s earthquakes in the two neighboring countries is currently estimated to be over 11,000 – and still expected to climb.

By Erin Viner

“It’s now a race against time,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. “Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes.”

Monday’s initial 7.8 magnitude tremor was followed just hours later by a second one almost as powerful. Turkish authorities estimate that 13.5 million people were affected in an area spanning roughly 450 km (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east – wider than the distance between Amsterdam and Paris, or Boston and Philadelphia.

Turkey’s disaster management agency believes that more that 38,000 others have been injured in the quakes, which toppled thousands of buildings including hospitals, schools and apartment blocks, and left countless people homeless domestically and in war-torn Syria.

Overwhelmed rescue workers have been rushing to extricate victims buried below the rubble.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces, expressed deep appreciation for offers of assistance from 70 different countries and 14 international organizations. He today acknowledged that there were problems with his own government’s initial response to the disaster.

Syrian authorities have reported deaths as far south as Hama, some 250 km from the epicenter. Relief efforts have been complicated with emergency teams struggling to reach many of the worst-hit areas, hampered due to destroyed roads, poor weather and the lack of resources and heavy equipment. Aid officials have expressed particular concern over the situation in the Arab Republic, where humanitarian needs were already steep due to the civil war ongoing since 2011.

Israel was quick to offer humanitarian assistance to both of the devastated countries – including Syria, with which is in a formal state of war.

As part of the “Olive Branches” humanitarian aid delegation, an IDF Home Front Command delegation arrived in Turkey on Monday to assist with rescue and evacuation efforts.  An additional IDF Medical Corps, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Health medical aid delegation arrived this morning to establish a field hospital, assist the Home Front Command to locate missing people and extract them from the ruins, while focusing on providing medical treatment in field hospitals using advanced Israeli medical equipment.

The 230-member delegation includes officers and soldiers from the IDF Medical Corps and search and rescue personnel from the Home Front Command, as well as doctors, nurses and paramedics from the Ministry of Health. The National Steering Committee for Earthquake Preparedness in the Israel Ministry of Defense will assist the delegation, said an IDF statement.

A brief assessment of international support compiled by the Associated Press is as follows:

The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams to help Turkey, while the bloc’s Copernicus satellite system has been activated to provide emergency mapping services. At least 19 member countries have offered assistance. The European Commission is also helping neighboring Syria by funding humanitarian organizations supervising search and rescue operations.

The United States is coordinating immediate assistance to Turkey, including teams to support search and rescue efforts. In California, nearly 100 Los Angeles County firefighters and structural engineers, along with six specially trained dogs, were being sent to Turkey.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has sent enough surgical material to treat 100 people to one of the public hospitals in the Syrian city of Aleppo. More medical equipment is on its way to Aleppo, Latakia and Tartous. The Red Cross also is donating canned food, blankets, mattresses and other essential items for distribution in the many shelters being set-up in affected areas.

Russian rescue teams from the Emergencies Ministry were sent to Syria, where Russian military deployed in that country already has sent 10 units comprising 300 people to help clear debris and search for survivors. The Russian military has set up points to distribute humanitarian assistance. Russia also has offered help to Turkey, which has been accepted.

— A team of 82 rescuers sent by the Chinese government has arrived in Adana, Turkey. They include specialists in search and rescue as well as medical treatment, and they brought in 21 tons of rescue equipment and supplies. China’s CCTV also said a non-governmental rescue and search organization from Zhejiang province also sent an advanced team to Turkey.

— Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the Palestinian Authority will dispatch two humanitarian missions to assist in Syria and Turkey. The aid missions will include civil defense and medical teams.

Greece is sending Turkey a team of 21 rescuers, two rescue dogs and a special rescue vehicle, together with a structural engineer, five doctors and seismic planning experts in a military transport plane.

— The Lebanese army says it will send a team of 15 members of the military’s engineering regiment to neighboring Syria to help in rescue operations in government-held parts of the country. Tuesday’s announcement came a day after the army sent 20 members of the same regiment to Turkey to help rescuers there who are racing to find survivors.

— One of Libya’s rival governments said it will dispatch a 55-member team to Turkey to help in rescue efforts. The government of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah said the team would include rescuers, medical members along with four dogs.

— Medical workers from Spain will set up a field hospital in Turkey to treat the wounded. Spain has mobilized troops and drones from the country’s Military Emergency Unit to Malatya airport, where the Turkish authorities have installed an international aid center. Spain will also contribute to aid efforts through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Spain will also contribute to rescue efforts in Syria through NGOs operating there.

Germany’s THW civil protection agency is sending a 50-member rescue team to Turkey on Tuesday. A team from the group International Search and Rescue Germany, with 42 experts and seven dogs, has arrived in Turkey and is heading to Kirikhan, near the Syrian border. Germany also has been readying deliveries of emergency generators, tents, blankets and water treatment equipment.

— A South Korean disaster relief team of 110 rescue workers and medical supplies have arrived at Gaziantep airport in Turkey. The Foreign Ministry says the team includes 60 civilian rescuers and 50 military personnel.

Australia’s government will be sending up to 72 personnel capable of finding and removing trapped people and delivering medical aid.

Pakistan has sent one flight of relief supplies and another carrying a 50-member search and rescue team. The government says daily aid flights to Syria and Turkey will start Wednesday, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif set up a relief fund, urging people to donate generously. The federal cabinet is donating a month’s salary and all government employees are donating a day’s salary toward it.

Britain is sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists with equipment and dogs, as well as an emergency medical team, to Turkey. The U.K. also says it’s in contact with the U.N. about getting support to victims in Syria.

India is sending 100 search and rescue personnel from its Natural Disaster Response Force to Turkey, as well as specially trained dog squads and equipment for relief efforts. Medical teams with trained doctors, paramedics and essential medicines are also ready, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Taiwan is sending 130 rescue squad members, five search dogs and 13 tons of equipment to Turkey. Interior Minister Lin Yu-chang said the first group left for Turkey late Monday and another was sent Tuesday. Taiwan earlier said it would donate $200,000 to Turkey.

Switzerland dispatched its rescue dog service REDOG is sending 22 rescuers with 14 dogs to Turkey. The government said it would also send 80 search and rescue specialists to the country, including army disaster experts.

— The Czech Republic is sending Turkey a team of 68 rescuers, including firefighters, doctors, structural engineers and also experts with sniffer dogs.

Japan has sent two teams of rescuers to Turkey. The first group left Monday and the second, with more than 50 members and five dogs, left Tuesday evening.

Austria has offered to send 84 soldiers from a military disaster relief unit to Turkey.

Poland is sending Turkey 76 firefighters and eight trained dogs, with equipment.

Romania is sending specialized personnel and material to Turkey on two military aircraft.

Croatia is sending 40 personnel and 10 dogs, rescue equipment and vans to Turkey.

Serbia is sending 21 rescuers and three liaison officers to Turkey.

Montenegro is sending at least 24 firefighters to Turkey.

Moldova’s president says 55 rescue workers have been sent to Turkey.

France is dispatching rescue teams to Turkey.

Jordan is sending emergency aid to Syria and Turkey on the orders of King Abdullah II.

Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary said the country will send equipment and rescue specialists to Turkey.

Egypt has pledged urgent humanitarian aid to Turkey.

Italy’s Civil Protection Agency has offered assistance to Turkey. A firefighting team was preparing to leave from Pisa, and the Italian military says transport flights will carry equipment as well as health and other personnel.

New Zealand is providing $632,000 to the Turkish Red Crescent and $316,000 to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver items such as food, tents and blankets, as well as provide medical assistance and psychological support.

China’s Red Cross Society is providing the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Red Crescent with $200,000 each in humanitarian assistance.

Albania and Kosovo have sent emergency teams to Turkey to assist in search and rescue. Albania’s 53-member team consists of firefighters and army and health personnel.

Finland will send 1 million euros in humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The support will be used to provide food, shelter, medical supplies and psychosocial support to people who lost their homes.

Greece’s Orthodox Church has announced a charity drive and prayer services in support of victims.

Additionally, the US Agency for International Development (UAID) arrived in Turkey aboard military aircraft this morning with 12 search dogs and 170,000 pounds of specialized tools and equipment, including for triage and concrete breaking.

China later pledged to offer emergency humanitarian aid of 30 million yuan ($4.4 million) to Syria.