On Sunday a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Van in eastern Turkey. The Turkish authorities, the Red Crescent and many volunteers have faced a huge task but have rescued thousands of people.
The European Commission’s emergency response centre was immediately on alert, ready to coordinate Europe’s contribution to the relief operations if and when Turkey requested it. Today we have been asked to join the response and help care for those whose homes have been destroyed by the quake.
Turkey has requested family-type tents and pre-fabricated housing to shelter those made homeless. It is very cold in the Van province – at night, the temperature can fall to zero, so the tents need to be suitable for cold weather.
Several countries which participate in the European Civil Protection Mechanism have already offered assistance. I expect that in the coming hours, more will join – European countries have already expressed their solidarity so I hope we can be of use in this difficult time when so many are suffering.
This will be a joint operation with the Turkish authorities. In emergencies like this it is important to follow the lead of those who best know the needs and the situation on the ground.
We are also sending civil protection experts and they will be our eyes on the ground, coordinating the delivery of European assistance and talking directly with the local authorities and people.
Turkey has been a great friend in need when other countries were overwhelmed by disasters – last year, for instance, it sent fire-fighting jets to Israel to combat the huge forest fires and earlier this year Turkish doctors and first-aid workers tended for the injured by the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan. More recently, Turkey was a generous host to the thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Syria. So, Turks have shown magnificent solidarity – and now deserve ours.