Rescue teams at collapsed buildings at Galleria Apartment in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey. Ahmet Yukus/PA
Relief Efforts

Tánaiste announces €2 million in emergency aid for Turkey and Syria following earthquakes

Countries around the world have rushed to dispatch aid, personnel and equipment to help rescue efforts in the regions.

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has announced that Ireland will send €2 million in emergency assistance to Turkey and Syria after a devastating earthquake struck the region, killing over 2,600 people.

The initial quake of 7.8-magnitude struck southern Turkey and northern Syria in the early hours. That quake was followed by more than 50 aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue work this afternoon.

Hundreds of people are still believed to be trapped under rubble, with rescue workers and residents in multiple cities continuing to search for survivors.

In a statement this evening, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the €2 million allocation is in direct response to the emergency appeal for funding from the Government of Turkey and aid agencies working in Turkey and northwest Syria.

It said the assistance will support immediate and urgent humanitarian needs on the ground.

“The funds will be allocated to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Syria Cross-Border Humanitarian Fund, which are both best placed to respond immediately and to support local and international organisations already working on the ground to save lives in Turkiye and northwest Syria,” the statement read.

Announcing the funding, Martin said the people of Ireland had been shocked by the loss of life in Turkey and Syria following the earthquakes, adding that the people of northwest Syria “already face enormous challenges as a result of conflict and displacement”.

“Ireland has consistently supported the Syria refugee response over many years, contributing €23 million annually in support of Syrian refugees and host countries across the region. These communities in NW Syria need our support now more than ever,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is “monitoring the situation closely” through its Embassies in Ankara and Cairo and is in “close contact with United Nations and aid agency representatives on their response as the extent of the devastation and level of need becomes clearer”.

Any Irish citizens that require consular assistance can contact the Embassy of Ireland in Ankara on 00 90 312 4591000.

International aid

Countries around the world have rushed to dispatch aid, personnel and equipment to help rescue efforts in the regions since early this morning.

Britain’s foreign affairs minister James Cleverly said the UK is sending “immediate support” to Turkey, including a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.

US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake” in Turkey and Syria.

“I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye and provide any and all needed assistance,” Biden tweeted from his official account.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his war-torn country was “ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster.”

The message was reiterated by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said Ukraine was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and damage” wreaked by the earthquake.

In a joint statement, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcichas said the bloc has “mobilised search and rescue teams for Turkey following its request to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism”.

“Urban Search and Rescue teams have been quickly mobilised from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania to support the first responders on the ground,” the statement read.

“Italy, Spain and Slovakia have offered their rescue teams to Turkey as well. The EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre is in direct contact with the authorities in Turkey to coordinate further support if needed.”

The statement said the EU’s Copernicus satellite system has also been activated to provide emergency mapping services.

‘Full solidarity’

“The EU is also ready to support those affected in Syria, which has also reported casualties, through its humanitarian assistance programmes,” it continued.

Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones and the brave first responders working to save lives.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced “full solidarity” with ally Turkey, saying he was in touch with Turkey’s top leadership and “NATO allies are mobilising support now”.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi voiced “solidarity” with those affected in both countries, saying the UN agency was “ready to help provide urgent relief to the survivors through our field teams wherever possible”.

India has said it would “immediately” send search and rescue from its National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) along with medical teams and relief material to Turkey.

Two NDRF teams comprising 100 personnel with dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the affected area, it said, with teams of trained doctors and paramedics with essential medicines also being readied.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences, saying he was “anguished” and “deeply pained” by the loss of lives in both Turkey and Syria. 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had given the go-ahead to send aid to Syria, after receiving a request through diplomatic channels as the countries have no official relations.

Israel “received a request from a diplomatic source for humanitarian aid to Syria, and I approved it”, Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud party, adding the aid would be sent soon.

Syria’s government does not recognise Israel and the countries have fought several wars since Israel’s creation in 1948.

Netanyahu’s office declined to provide further details on the source of the request to help Syria. The Israeli leader has also confirmed his government would send humanitarian assistance to Turkey following the disaster.

Israel’s foreign ministry said a team of search and rescue specialists would leave for Turkey today, and that another delegation equipped with humanitarian supplies would follow on Tuesday.

Medical aid

French aid agency Medécins sans Frontieres (MSF) said its teams have been responding in northern Syria since the early hours following the earthquake.

In a statement, the organisation said one of its staff members was found dead under the rubble of his home in Idlib, while others lost members of their families.

“We are very shocked and saddened by the impact of this disaster on the thousands of people touched by it, including our colleagues and their families”, says Sebastien Gay, MSF Head of Mission in Syria.

“Health facilities are impacted and overwhelmed, and the medical personnel in northern Syria is working around the clock to respond to the huge numbers of wounded arriving to the facilities,” Gay said.

“From the first hours, our teams treated around 200 wounded and we received 160 casualties in the facilities and the clinics that we run or support in northern Idlib. Our ambulances are also deployed to assist the population.”

MSF said it provided immediate support to 23 health facilities across Idlib and Aleppo by donating emergency medical kits and supporting them with medical staff, while it also donated blankets and essential like kits to displaced populations in northwest Syria.

“The level of damage in the region has caused the destruction of hundreds of houses, leaving thousands homeless. It has been snowing the past three days and the population remains outside out of fear of further aftershocks that continued throughout the day,” Gay said.

“The needs are very high in northwest Syria as this quake adds a dramatic layer for the vulnerable populations that are still struggling after many years of war.

“The massive consequences of this disaster will require an international aid effort that is up to the scale.”

MSF said it remains in close contact with the local authorities in northwest Syria and with the authorities in Turkey to extend its support where it’s needed.

“We are currently assessing the situation and needs in Idlib, northern Aleppo and south Turkey to scale up our response accordingly, as the number of deaths and injuries is increasing by the hour.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 169 staff and 144 volunteers of the Turkish Red Crescent, part of the Red Cross Movement are supporting people affected by the earthquake in Turkey.

Irish humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide said it is providing emergency supplies and shelter to those impacted by the two fatal earthquakes.

The charity said it is supplying blankets and heaters to emergency shelters in Şanlıurfa, close to the epicentre of the earthquakes in southern Turkey, along with food and water.

It said it is also “opening community centres that are deemed safe, so families have somewhere to sleep”.

In northwest Syria, Concern is working with local partners to assess what response is needed.

“The biggest priority for people affected by these earthquakes is shelter as it’s currently below freezing (-4 degrees Celsius) in the areas hit by the earthquakes,” said Fiona Gannon, regional director with Concern.

“These have been some of the strongest earthquakes in a 100 years and aftershocks have disrupted communications and electricity supplies, many people are too afraid to go inside, choosing to sleep in their cars instead.”

Concern has also launched an emergency fundraising appeal for Turkey and Syria.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said it is ready to support those affected by the earthquakes “as the scale of destruction becomes clearer”, adding that “children are always among the most vulnerable when disasters strike”.

The Middle East regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Carsten Hansen, said the organisation is assessing the situation “in order to provide direct support to those most affected”.

“Our thoughts are with those affected across areas, and with our staff and the people we serve, hit by today’s earthquake. The quake happened at the worst time of night at the worst time of the year,” Hansen said.

This is a disaster that will worsen the suffering of Syrians already struggling with a severe humanitarian crisis.

“Millions have already been forced to flee by war in the wider region and now many more will be displaced by disaster. In the midst of a winter storm and an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, it is vital that Syrians are not left to face the aftermath on their own.”

Hansen said the NRC is assessing the situation in order to provide direct support to those most affected across Syria, adding that a “massive scale up is needed and our organisation will be part of it”.

“We appeal to the international community for the immediate mobilisation of financial resources to support collective relief efforts in Syria and southern Türkiye. With every minute of delay, there will be lives lost.”

Includes reporting by © AFP 2023

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