PMO’s Intervention, High-level Meets: How India Sent Its First Rescue Team to Earthquake-Hit Turkey

India has emerged as a quick responder to the devastation in Turkey and Syria after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the countries on February 6. India’s swift response led to the first C-17 Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft with a specialised Search & Rescue (SAR) team leaving for Türkiye within hours of a request of assistance being received.

Indian officials have been on active mode ever since the first report of the massive earthquake surfaced, killing over 17,000 so far.

It all began at 7:30-8 on Monday morning when external affairs minister S Jaishankar had a meeting in South Block at 10 am, and around 11:30 am, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had tweeted expressing anguish at the loss of lives and property and expressing his condolences for Turkey.

The Principal Secretary had an hour-long inter-ministerial meeting in around noon, and at 1 pm, India received an official email request from the Turkish side asking for assistance.

At 3.30 pm, an operational meeting was being held between the defence ministry, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in South Block to strategise and put together resources. Within 12 hours of that meeting, the first Search and Rescue (SAR) flight left for Turkey from New Delhi.

Since then, India has been able to send more than 250 personnel, specialised equipment and other relief material amounting to more than 135 tonnes to Turkey on six C-17 IAF aircraft.

India has set up a control room in Adana in southern Turkey. The Consul General from Istanbul has moved along with several other officials from the mission in Ankara and they are all stationed on the ground in the affected areas.

The area under quake impact on the Turkish part is almost 1.2 lakh square kilometres, west to east about 450 km and from north to south about 290 km.

There are 10 provinces including Adana, Gaziantep, Malatya and Kahramanmaras, which have been hit severely. The 7.6 and 7.7 magnitude earthquakes were felt as far away as Greece, Israel and Cyprus. Several countries from around the world and NGO have sent help for the quake affected people.

However, freezing cold and inhospitable weather in many areas is delaying the rescue and relief works, with transport and communication links disturbed and mobile towers damaged.

In a press briefing, the Ministry of External Affairs said nearly 3,000 Indians live in Turkey. The MEA has received calls from 75 persons asking the embassy for assistance, 10 individuals are stuck in some remote parts of the affected areas, but are safe, one Indian national from Bengaluru, who was on a business visit to Turkey, is reportedly missing in Malatya and has not been traced.

The Indian Army has set up a 30 bedded Field Hospital at Iskenderun in Hatay province in Türkiye. It will operate with a team of 99 specially trained personnel, with essential medicines, advanced equipment, vehicles and ambulances. It will be equipped with an Operation Theatre, X-ray machines, and ventilators. It will treat those affected by the earthquake. Our team of medical & critical care specialists and equipment are preparing to treat emergencies.

The destruction in North-Western Syria has resulted in thousands losing lives, many more being homeless now. New Delhi has dispatched 6 tons of emergency relief assistance through a special aircraft of the Indian Air Force to Syria. The consignment was handed over by Cd’A of India to Syria SK Yadav to Deputy Minister of Local Administration and Environment of Syria Moutaz Douaji at Damascus Airport on February 8 morning. The consignment consists of emergency medicines and equipment including portable ECG machines, patient monitors and other essential medical items.

India over the years has been extending humanitarian, technical and developmental assistance to Syria through bilateral and multilateral channels. Consignments of food and medicines have been supplied to Syria from time to time, including during the Covid-19 pandemic. India has, since the tsunami crisis, built enviable capacity in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. Sending teams in various parts of the world in quick time, whether it was Operation Rahat, Operation Ganga, in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Japan or other parts of the world.

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