x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE aid groups stand by to help Turkey

Relief agencies in the UAE were waiting for Turkey's approval before sending assistance to victims of the earthquake there.

DUBAI // Humanitarian organisations are on standby and awaiting approval from Turkey before sending emergency aid to earthquake victims.

Eight organisations met yesterday morning at the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Humanitarian Foundation to discuss coordination and distribution of aid in eastern Turkey.

The meeting came a day after Sheikh Khalifa, the President, directed them to provide assistance.

"It is important to have permission from the foreign ministry in Turkey," said Dr Saleh Al Taei, the Red Crescent Authority's secretary general adviser.

"We are waiting for them to give approvals to our embassy in Turkey to send aid. We cannot go in without permission."

At least 400 people have died and more than 1,300 have been injured in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the eastern province of Van, near the Iranian border, on Sunday. Hundreds of mud-brick homes in villages and concrete buildings in the cities of Ercis and Van have been destroyed.

The Red Crescent official said the UAE's gesture to provide aid was "symbolic" amid reports that Turkey had refused foreign aid.

Officials also set up a joint delegation from the UAE's humanitarian organisations that will be sent to Turkey to study the needs of victims once they receive the go-ahead from the authorities, according to the state news agency Wam.

The UAE Red Crescent is also in touch with its counterpart organisation, the Red Crescent in Turkey.

"We have already asked them to send us details to know exactly what their needs are," said Dr Al Taei, adding that the humanitarian organisations were "on standby".

At yesterday's meeting, the organisations discussed the conditions in the country, the relief needs and the logistics necessary to distribute aid. A decision on the kind of assistance would be made only after an assessment by the UAE delegation.

Officials were not willing to immediately estimate the cost of the operation.

"Anything the community needs will be given as the relief has been ordered by the President," Dr Al Taei said. "Every victim is important."

The UAE has previously provided assistance in several countries where people were in need of relief, most recently in the Horn of Africa, which has been plagued by severe drought and internal conflict.

pkannan@thenational.ae