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EU countries to provide search and rescue teams following Turkey's deadly earthquake

Civil defence workers and security forces search through the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Hama, Syria, Feb. 6, 2023.
Civil defence workers and security forces search through the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Hama, Syria, Feb. 6, 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Omar Sanadik
Copyright AP Photo/Omar Sanadik
By Alice Tidey
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Thirteen EU Member States have offered to send emergency personnel to Turkey. Brussels also says it is "ready to support those affected in Syria."

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Search and rescue teams from across the European Union are being dispatched to Turkey on Monday following a devastating earthquake.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck shortly after 04:00 AM local time near the western Turkish city of Gaziantep, has so far claimed the lives of over 2,600 people in the country and neighbouring Syria.

"We stand in full solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria after the deadly earthquake that hit this morning. We mourn with the families of the victims," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

"Europe’s support is already on the way and we stand ready to continue helping in any way we can," she added.

Over a dozen EU member states have so far responded to Turkey's call for assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the European Commission said in a statement.

Urban search and rescue teams are being mobilised from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania with Hungary, Italy, Spain, Malta and Slovakia also offering their assistance.

The EU's Copernicus satellite system has also been activated to provide local authorities with emergency mapping services.

High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said the bloc's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is "in direct contact with the authorities in Turkey to coordinate further support if needed".

"The EU is also ready to support those affected in Syria, which has also reported casualties, through its humanitarian assistance programmes.

"Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones and the brave first responders working to save lives," they added.

Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch foreign minister, explained on Twitter that the Dutch team includes police and military personnel, first aid responders and firefighters. 

The French foreign ministry meanwhile said before 12:00 CET that its rescue workers would "be leaving in the next few hours." 

Turkey is one of the 33 countries that participate in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism alongside the bloc's 27 countries and Norway, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. But its help can be requested by any country in the world whose own national emergency resources are overwhelmed by a disaster and need further assistance.

Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari told reporters on Monday that, unlike Turkey, Syria has not made a request for assistance through the mechanism.

Some of the areas affected by the earthquake in Syria are controlled by government forces but others are held by the opposition. 

"What we can do now is to operate through our humanitarian aid policy. Obviously, the EU and its member states are collectively the largest source of humanitarian aid for Syria.

"We have been in touch with our partner organisations on the ground and from the conversations that we have had with them, it transpired that they will channel some of the existing humanitarian assistance to the areas affected by the earthquake in Syria, which is very much welcomed by the Commission. 

"And, of course, we are also looking at the possibility of making available additional humanitarian aid specifically to address the consequences of the earthquake in Syria," he added.

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The EU has provided €27 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria since 2011, including €150 million in 2022.

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