7 Feb 2023

Government to donate $1.5m to help Türkiye and Syria with disaster response

6:39 pm on 7 February 2023
A resident stands in front of  a collapsed building following an earthquake in the town of Jandaris, in the countryside of Syria's northwestern city of Afrin in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province, on February 6, 2023. - Hundreds have been reportedly killed in north Syria after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that originated in Turkey and was felt across neighbouring countries. (Photo by Rami al SAYED / AFP)

A resident stands in front of a collapsed building following an earthquake in the town of Jandaris, near the city of Afrin in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province, in Syria, on 6 February, 2023. Photo: AFP / Rami al Sayed

New Zealand will provide $1.5 million worth of aid to Türkiye and Syria following devastating earthquakes that have affected both countries, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says.

The contribution will be made to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with $1m to be spent in Türkiye and $500,000 for Syria.

The aid will include essential relief items such as food supplies, tents and blankets and provide lifesaving medical assistance and psychological support, Mahuta said.

The minister said New Zealand was deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation each country had suffered.

Labour Party MP Nanaia Mahuta

Nanaia Mahuta says New Zealanders are saddened by the earthquake tragedy. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The announcement comes in the wake of an appeal from the United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres who has called for an international response to the disaster.

Leaders from around the world have responded with offers of help, but the closure of airports makes getting aid into the area more challenging.

"We are playing our part in the global effort to support those at the centre of the devastation," Mahuta said.

"By contributing directly to the IFRC appeals, emergency responders on the ground can benefit from additional assistance immediately."

She said officials would continue to monitor the humanitarian needs and assess options for further support.

Despite political tensions with Turkey both Greece and Sweden have offered support while in a rare moment of cooperation, Israel has said it will send humanitarian assistance to Syria - although Syria has denied making a request.

Countries including the US and South Korea are also sending aid.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins took a moment to share his condolences during a meeting with Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this afternoon.

"We know a little bit about earthquakes in New Zealand and the significant effect that can have on people," Hipkins said. "Our hearts are with them."

Albanese said his government would provide an "initial" $10m in aid, to go to humanitarian groups.

"Australia's assistance will target those in greatest need," he said.

Search for survivors continues

Rescue teams from around the world have been urgently deployed to help find those still trapped under the rubble, as the next few hours will be critical for their survival.

A rescue operation is still underway across much of southern Turkey and northern Syria following the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude quakes which struck near Gaziantep on Monday.

The country's disaster agency said more than 2900 people were killed in Turkey alone after the first quake and more than 15,000 were injured.

More than 1400 people were reported to have died in Syria.

Many residents have spent the night in the open after their houses were destroyed.

In Turkey alone, nearly five thousand buildings have been flattened.

Freezing temperatures, snow and rain have hampered search efforts for survivors through the night in Turkey, as those trapped in the debris cried out for help.

One man in Hatay, a province in Turkey's south, described the agonising wait for rescuers to to Reuters.

"They're making noises but nobody is coming," Deniz said, at times wringing his hands in despair.

"We're devastated. My God... They're calling out. They're saying, 'Save us,' but we can't save them.... There has been nobody since the morning."

Meanwhile, in Syria, Raed al-Saleh of the White Helmets - a rescue service in rebel-held territory - said they were in "a race against time to save the lives of those under the rubble".

No New Zealand deaths reported

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said there were 29 New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel as being in Turkey.

MFAT said there was no information to suggest any New Zealanders have been affected by the quakes at this stage.

A spokesperson said the New Zealand Embassy in Ankara was in contact with local authorities to determine whether any New Zealanders were affected.

Comparable to Kaikōura

Otago University chair of earthquake sciences Mark Stirling told Midday Report the initial 7.8 magnitude quake was comparable to New Zealand's 2016 Kaikōura quake.

But there was a stark difference in fatalities.

More the 4300 people are now reported to have died from the quake. More are injured, more are missing.

In contrast the Kaikōura quake had two related deaths.

Auckland University Professor Liam Wotherspoon said that was because of the quality of the building construction.

He said in New Zealand there were seismic design standards and more flexible materials were used to prevent buildings from collapsing.

He said in contrast buildings in Turkey and Syria were older, more brittle and some structures had already been weakened by the impacts of war.

-RNZ / BBC / Reuters

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