Barak orders quake aid be sent following Turkish request

Defense minister instructs officials to fly special equipment to Turkey after Turkish authorities ask for assistance from Israel; death toll from 7.2-magnitude earthquake rises to 432 as rescue efforts continue.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
October 25, 2011 19:22
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak 311. (photo credit: Ariel Tarmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday ordered defense officials to fly special equipment to Turkey to aid in the country's rescue and recovery, following a deadly earthquake in the eastern Van province on Sunday.

According to a statement released by Barak's office, the decision to send the equipment to Turkey came after Turkish authorities requested assistance from Israel.

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Israel first offered help on Sunday, when the earthquake struck, in a move seen as easing strains over Israel's killing of nine Turks on board a Gaza-bound flotilla last year.

The assistance will focus on temporary buildings necessary for the rehabilitation of people rescued and evacuated at disaster sites in Turkey, as well as essential field hospital structures. Israeli Air Force aircraft were scheduled to transfer these buildings beginning on Wednesday.

The Turkish request was transferred via the Israeli Consul stationed in Ankara.

The death toll from the 7.2-magnitude quake rose to 432, from an earlier 366 on Tuesday, the Disaster and Emergency Administration said. The final count was likely to rise further as many people were still missing and 2,262 buildings had collapsed.

Rescuers pulled a two-week-old baby girl alive from the wreckage of a collapsed apartment block on Tuesday as they battled to find survivors from the earthquake that  left thousands homeless.

The baby's mother and a grandmother were also brought out alive on stretchers to jubilant cries from onlookers who followed the dramatic rescue under cold, pouring rain.

"It's a miracle!", said Senol Yigit, the uncle of the baby, Azra, whose name means "purity" or "untouched" in Arabic. "I'm so happy. What can I say. We have been waiting for two days. We had lost hope when we first saw the building," he said sobbing.

However, hope of finding more people alive under tons of rubble faded with every passing hour as rescuers pulled out more bodies.

Thousands slept for a second night in crowded tents or huddled around fires and in cars across a region rattled by aftershocks in Van province, near the Iranian border.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on on Monday evening to personally offer assistance with the recovery efforts from the devastating earthquake that rocked Turkey on Sunday.

Netanyahu “expressed his condolences” to the earthquake victims and expressed Israel to offer help, if it was required, said an Israeli official.

Erdogan thanked Netanyahu for his concern and for the offer of support, said the official.

This was the first telephone conversation between the two prime ministers since Turkey downgraded Israel's diplomatic status in September.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report


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