An Indian is missing and 10 others are stuck but safe in remote regions of earthquake-hit Turkiye even as specialist teams sent by India to the West Asian country commenced their search and rescue operations, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.
India launched ‘Operation Dost’ to extend assistance to Turkiye as well as Syria following Monday’s devastating quake that has killed over 11,000 people in the two countries.
At a media briefing, Secretary (West) in the MEA Sanjay Verma said while one Indian has gone missing in one of the affected areas in Turkiye, 10 others are stuck in some remote parts but they are safe.
He said three Indians who approached the Indian government were taken to a safe location, adding the Indians in Turkiye are relatively safe.
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”We set up a control room in Adana in Turkiye. Ten Indians are stuck in remote parts of the affected areas but they are safe. We have one Indian national missing who was on a business visit to Turkiye. He has not been traced in the last two days. We are in touch with his family and the company in Bengaluru which employs him,” Verma said.
”We have received calls from around 75 persons asking our embassy there about information and assistance,” he said.
The number of Indians residing in Turkiye is around 3,000 out of which about 1,800 live in and around Istanbul, while 250 are in Ankara and rest are spread all over the country, according to the official.
On Tuesday, India sent to Turkiye relief materials, a mobile hospital and specialised search and rescue teams in four C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft to support the country’s rescue efforts.
India also sent relief materials onboard a C-130J aircraft of the Indian Air Force to Syria on Tuesday. On Wednesday, India despatched relief materials in another aircraft to Turkiye.
Asked about sending aid to Syria when the country has been under US sanctions, Verma said India is following the G20 mantra of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.
”Sanctions don’t cover such humanitarian assistance,” he said.
On Twitter, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar shared photos of teams from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) commencing search operation in Turkiye’s Gaziantep.
”It was perhaps the furthest that we have gone in terms of HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief ) involving specialised teams. We tried to live up to our reputation as first responders,” Verma said.
The MEA said India has been able to send more than 250 personnel, specialised equipment and other relief material amounting to more than 135 tonnes to Turkiye on five C-17 IAF aircraft.
These include three self sustained teams of the NDRF numbering more than 150 specially trained personnel, along with dog squads, specialised equipment, vehicles and other supplies. ”Their equipment allows for detection, location, access and rescue of people trapped under collapsed structures,” the MEA said.
In addition, personnel and equipment have been sent to set up a 30-bed self-sustained field hospital of the Indian Army. This includes a team of 99 specially trained personnel, with essential medicines, advanced equipment, vehicles and ambulances. The MEA said the hospital will provide for a fully functional operation theatre, and facilities such as X-ray, ventilators, etc.
The NDRF teams are rendering assistance in rescue operations at Gaziantep while the medical team is setting up the field hospital in Iskenderun, the MEA said.
A team of officials of Ministry of External Affairs, two of which are Turkish speaking officers, have been deployed to Turkiye to assist the teams involved in rescue and relief operations.
”India stands committed to extend all possible support to those affected by this devastating earthquake,” the MEA said.
”Operation Dost is India’s latest expression of being a first responder, a net security provider, and a country whose Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief response is quick and available to countries not only in the neighbouring region, but also beyond,” it said.
At the press conference, NDRF Director General Atul Karwal said the force is ready to send more teams.
India on Monday decided to immediately dispatch search and rescue teams of the NDRF, medical teams and relief material to Turkiye following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s instructions to offer all possible assistance to the country.
Several countries, including the US and the UK, are sending relief materials and search and rescue specialists to Turkiye to help search for survivors of the quake.
The massive earthquake has killed more than 11,000 people and flattened thousands of buildings in Turkiye and neighbouring Syria.
On aid to Syria, the MEA said the consignments were handed over to the Deputy Minister of Local Administration and Environment of Syria Moutaz Douaji at Damascus airport this morning.
”The consignment consists of emergency medicines and equipment including portable ECG machines, patient monitors and other essential medical items,” it said in a statement.