Pakistan dispatches first batch of rescue teams, relief goods to Turkey

— PIA to deliver 15, seven tons of relief goods to Turkey, Syria on a daily basis

— Sharif sets up fund to support Turkish victims

ISLAMABAD/ANKARA: Pakistan has dispatched its first batch of rescue teams and relief goods to Turkey for victims of Monday’s massive earthquakes.

A C-130 plane carrying a search and rescue team from the Pakistan Army took off from Chaklala Airbase in Rawalpindi late Monday, said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

A 50-member rescue team along with 25 tons of relief goods left for Turkey through a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight Tuesday morning, the statement added.

Another C-130 plane carrying seven tons of relief goods including medicines, tents, blankets and other relief items will be flying to Istanbul from Lahore later in the day.

From Wednesday onwards, PIA flights will be carrying 15 and seven tons of relief goods to Turkey and Syria on a daily basis, the statement added.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will leave for Turkey on Wednesday to express their solidarity with the earthquake victims, the media reported.

Later in the day, Marriyum Aurangzeb, the information minister, said Sharif has decided to launch a relief fund to support earthquake victims in Turkey. “The federal cabinet has decided to donate their one-month pay to the fund,” she announced.

Separately, the prime minister said in a tweet the destruction in Turkey and Syria was mind-numbing.

“24 hours after the devastating earthquake hit Turkiye [and] Syria, scenes of death and destruction are mind-numbing. It breaks the heart to witness the sheer scale of unfolding human tragedy,” he wrote.

At least 2,921 people were killed and 15,834 others injured in 10 provinces of Turkey due to two strong earthquakes that jolted the southern part of the country, an official from the nation’s disaster agency said early Tuesday.

Early Monday morning, a powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras province and strongly shook several other provinces, including Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay and Kilis.

Then at 1:24 pm (1024GMT), a 7.6 magnitude quake centred in Kahramanmaras’s Elbistan district, struck the region.


The earthquake was powerful — especially for a quake that hit on land. Typically, very strong earthquakes occur underwater, Margarita Segou, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, said.

On top of that, the quake hit near heavily populated areas. The epicentre was near Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital in Turkey.

The affected regions were also home to vulnerable buildings, said Kishor Jaiswal, a USGS structural engineer.

While new buildings in cities like Istanbul were designed with modern earthquake standards in mind, this area of southern Turkey has many older high-rise buildings, Jaiswal said. Rapid construction in Syria — plus years of war — may have also left structures vulnerable, researchers said.

Officials reported thousands of buildings collapsed in the wake of the earthquake. They included “pancake” collapses, where upper floors of a building fall straight down onto the lower floors — a sign that the buildings couldn’t absorb the shaking, Jaiswal said.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by freezing temperatures and traffic jams from residents trying to leave quake-stricken areas.

“This is the awful level of devastation and destruction that we would expect to see” when a strong quake hits a region with buildings that have not been shored up, said Ilan Kelman, an expert in disasters and health at University College London.

— With input from Associated Press


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