Two strong earthquakes of magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 shook southern Türkiye near the Syrian border on 6 February at 4 am. As a result, more than 52,000 people have died inside Türkiye and 5,900 in Syria. Similarly, 115,000 people were injured and around 140,000 buildings were destroyed due to which more than one million people are currently living in tents. Pakistan’s government and people stand in solidarity with the Turkish and Syrian people at this hour.
According to the United Nations Development Programme officials, since 6 February, the affected areas have sustained a financial loss of more than $100 billion. Since the initial earthquakes, Türkiye’s Disaster Management Authority noted more than 9,100 aftershocks of both small and large scale. The aftershocks are expected to continue for some time.
Turkish and international rescue teams immediately started rescue and relief activities in the affected regions in Türkiye. However, in Syria, rescue and relief ran into difficulties due to lack of a authority in control of Syria, due to which the already existing humanitarian crisis in Syria has exacerbated.
The government and people of Pakistan have expressed full solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria. Immediately after the earthquake, Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet met the ambassador of Türkiye in Islamabad and expressed his condolences and reiterated his commitment to helping. Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif announced a relief fund of Rs10 billion for Türkiye and Syria. Pakistani rescue teams were among the first to carry out relief activities in the affected areas.
We cannot bring back those who lost their lives in Türkiye and Syria, but it is heartening to see our government and people stand with our Turkish and Syrian brothers and sisters.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reached Ankara on 16 February, where he offered his condolences to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace for the loss of lives and property. He arrived in Adiyaman from Ankara on 17 February and inspected the relief activities.
Pakistan sent relief goods to Syria and Türkiye through special flight operations and by sea. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sailed off the first sea cargo of 1,000 tonnes for both countries through PNS Nasr, which reached its destination in Syria on March 13, and would reach its destination in Türkiye on March 20. Another ship PNS Moawin with 550 tonnes of relief goods for both countries sailed off from Karachi on 12 March.
Pakistan also started special flight operations to send relief goods to Türkiye on March 11, 2023. On March 13, NDMA, on the directions of the Prime Minister, dispatched the 4th Cargo Plane with 1,200 winterised fire-resistant family tents (90 tons load) from Lahore, the NDMA shared on its Twitter handle. Former Punjab Education Minister, Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan and a journalist accompanied the relief aid.
So far, 4,800 winterised tents (360 tonnes load) have been dispatched through this operation. The NDMA has lined up more than 34 cargo flights to speed up the dispatch of relief assistance to Türkiye. The flight operations will continue till March 23.
In addition to the government, the people of Pakistan came forward to help. An anonymous Pakistani went to the Turkish embassy in America and deposited a donation of $30 million. This gesture has been widely reported in the Turkish and Pakistani media. Likewise, Pakistan’s leading humanitarian organisation Edhi Foundation has been carrying out relief activities in Türkiye by running free kitchens in relief camps and distributing rations and other goods to the affected in coordination with local volunteers.
The Turkish people have appreciated Pakistan’s cooperation. Videos have surfaced in which aviation staff clapped for Pakistani rescue teams heading home after completing their work.
We cannot bring back those who lost their lives in Türkiye and Syria, but it is heartening to see our government and people stand with our Turkish and Syrian brothers and sisters. We hope and pray that Türkiye and Syria recover from his massive disaster and turn around their lives soon.