UNHCR flies aid to Turkey for earthquake victims


– The UN refugee agency has airlifted more than 100 tonnes of aid to Turkey for survivors of last week’s devastating earthquake in the east of the country.

Two flights at the weekend brought 1,000 tents and 20,000 blankets. A third flight landed at Erzurum earlier today with more tents and blankets and the final flight is due to fly to Turkey within the next 24 hours with relief items from UNHCR’s stockpile in Dubai.

The aid is likely to be distributed in and around the badly damaged town of Ercis, which is located close to the quake epicentre. More than 600 people lost their lives and 4,000 were injured in the earthquake, according to the government.

In total, UNHCR plans to donate 4,000 tents, 50,000 blankets and 10,000 sleeping mats for the neediest families. The organization is focusing on the well-being of some 2,000 refugees and asylum-seekers known to have been living in the area. Most are Iranian or Afghan nationals.

They need food, water and shelter as autumn and winter in this part of Turkey are harsh. There is already some snow on the ground and night temperatures have dropped to below freezing. Some worried refugees and asylum-seekers have left the area, including the city of Van.

Relief assistance for Van is increasing by the day. There are presently three distribution points in the city. UNHCR and its partners are providing updated information to refugees and asylum-seekers.

Last Friday, UNHCR sent additional teams to support staff who were present during the quake and who volunteered to stay on. The UNHCR office in Van remains operational and is working closely with the local authorities and NGOs to facilitate deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The Turkish government and the local authorities in Van are working on a plan to relocate some people away from the disaster zone. Relocations of registered asylum-seekers and refugees are being organized on a voluntary basis and UNHCR teams in Van are counselling and advising groups.

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