Turkey has stepped up to help victims of the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Iraq late on Nov. 12 with thousands of supplies and humanitarian aid.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım vowed that Turkey will stand with the victims of the quake, adding that a military cargo plane carrying medical aid and 250 tents was dispatched to Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq.
“We want them to know Turkey wholeheartedly stands with our earthquake-victim brothers. Turkey has mobilized and has sent the first aid convoy to meet the medical and food needs of the brotherly Iraqi people,” Yıldırım said in a written message early on Nov. 13.
The prime minister stressed that Turkey’s Red Crescent has already mobilized its aid convoy to northern Iraq.
A military cargo plane carrying aid and a search-and-rescue team left Ankara and landed at Sulaymaniyah International Airport in northern Iraq early on Nov. 13 to help earthquake victims in the region.
The Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft took off from Etimesgut air base at 9.24 a.m. local time (0624GMT) carrying a 20-strong search team and another medical team of 10 from the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), two vehicles, 60 tents, 320 blankets and medical supplies.
Another 10-strong search-and-rescue team was dispatched by road, AFAD President Mehmet Güllüoğlu added in a statement.
Turkey’s aid efforts are being coordinated with the central government in Baghdad and the Iraqi Red Crescent.
According to AFAD’s Twitter account 5,000 tents, 7,000 blankets, 92 personnel and 11 vehicles were dispatched to northern Iraq immediately after the earthquake.
The Turkish Red Crescent was the first international aid agency to arrive in the quake-hit parts of northern Iraq, it said.
Turkish aid staff arrived within hours of the quake in the worst affected area of the Derbendihan district, where a number of buildings were destroyed and tens of houses were damaged.
Aid packets were also delivered to affected families.
“As the first aid agency to have arrived here, we have started assessing the cost of damage. We are talking to people. We will distribute food packages and blankets,” Oguzhan Demir from the Turkish Red Crescent’s logistics and operation unit told state-run Anadolu Agency.
Ahead of his Nov. 13 departure to the Russian city of Sochi where he would hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he wished a “speedy recovery to the people of Iraq and Iran after the earthquake that happened in Northern Iraq last night [and] I offer my condolences.”
He added that Turkish aid agencies are conducting search and rescue efforts in the affected region.
“As of now, an aid convoy of 50 trucks has crossed into Iraq through the Habur [border gate] in coordination with AFAD and the Red Crescent,” Erdoğan said.
The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement at offered condolences to Iraq and said Turkey is “ready to help” through the AFAD and the Red Crescent.
“Turkey stands ready to provide search and rescue teams & send humanitarian aid for earthquake victims in Iraq. Our thoughts and prayers are with our Iraqi brothers and sisters,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote on Twitter.
Çavuşoğlu also offered condolences for the victims to his Iranian counterpart Javaad Zarif in a phone conversation. He told Zarif that Turkey is ready to provide “all means of help” to Iran, a Foreign Ministry official said after the conversation.
Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdağ told broadcaster 24 TV that a paramedic team and rescue teams would be dispatched to the disaster area “by a military cargo plane in a few hours.”
Another team is en route from the Silopi district of Turkey’s Şırnak province to take tents to the area, Akdağ added.
Health Minister Ahmet Demircan similarly offered assistance to northern Iraq, saying 316 members of the National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) and emergency response teams are ready to aid and offer assistance to northern Iraq if a demand comes.
In September, Turkish airline companies halted flights to northern Iraq, following a referendum for independence held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but Demircan hinted that the currently suspended flights could be resumed.
“Airports [in Turkey] are [currently] closed to flights [to northern Iraq], but in line with information coming from our Foreign Ministry we have made all kinds of preparation in the event of a demand coming from northern Iraq,” he said.
Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Spokesperson Safeen Dizayee thanked Turkey for offering its support in a tweet on Nov. 13.
“I’d like to thank #Kurdistan Region’s first responders, police and security for making sure everyone is safe during last night’s earthquake. Special thanks to Turkey, Afad and Red Crescent for their quick response & support,” Dizayee said.
Iran was also hit by the quake, and Turkish Health Minister Demircan said it had not yet asked for assistance but Turkey was ready to “do its part.”
The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on Nov. 13 saying Turkey was ready to help if Iran needed any assistance.
“Due to the Iraq-based violent quake that happened last night [on Nov. 12], it has been with great sadness found out that the Iranian province of Kermnashah, on the border with Iraq, has been severely affected, and there are many fatal incidents and injured,” the ministry stated.
“Our country is ready to offer a hand to Iranian people, with whom we are friends, via the Turkish Red Crescent and AFAD if needed,” it added.
The health minister also said a total of 40 ambulances are ready to help, with 4,200 sickbeds and 217 intensive care units ready in various Turkish hospitals.
Although the earthquake was also felt by several provinces in Turkey’s east and southeast, no casualties were reported, AFAD head Mehmet Güllüoğlu told state-run Anadolu Agency.
The provinces of Diyarbakır, Batman, Mardin, Hakkari, Van, Muş, and Şırnak reportedly felt the temblor.
“We haven’t received any reports about damaged buildings or casualties in Turkey. That’s good news for our country,” Güllüoğlu said, adding that AFAD is in constant communication with the Iraqi authorities.