US and NATO allies in Europe converge on Turkey to aid earthquake recovery
Stars and Stripes February 8, 2023
More than 20 NATO countries are sending emergency response personnel to Turkey to support rescue and relief operations in areas devastated by Monday’s earthquake, which has killed thousands of people in Syria and Turkey.
More than 1,400 responders from allied countries, along with prospective members Finland and Sweden, are deploying, NATO said.
“We stand in solidarity with our ally Türkiye and with all those affected, and NATO allies stand ready to provide further assistance to those in need,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement Tuesday.
The assistance includes search teams with rescue dogs, as well as firefighters and structural engineering teams, medical personnel and supplies, and seismic experts, NATO said.
Incirlik Air Base, home to the Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing, also is factoring into U.S. relief efforts.
In a phone call this week with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar “emphasized the positive impact” that cooperation at Incirlik Air Base was having on relief efforts, a Pentagon readout of the conversation stated.
The base, with runways able to support large cargo aircraft, could serve as a hub for moving supplies across the broader region. Incirlik, located in southern Turkey, did not experience any major damage, Air Force officials said.
However, in the neighboring city of Adana, rescue workers were sifting through the rubble of collapsed buildings in search of survivors soon after the earthquake struck.
More than 53,000 Turkish first responders were working throughout the country to find survivors as of Tuesday.
Gaziantep, a city closer to the Syrian border, lies about 20 miles from the epicenter of the quake and was once an area where U.S. soldiers were involved in a Patriot air defense mission. But that mission ended several years ago.
NATO assistance is being provided through the alliance’s disaster response coordination center, which functions as a clearinghouse for requests and assistance offers in the event of disasters.
On Tuesday, Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said she was in talks regarding the disaster with U.S. European Command’s Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who is also NATO’s top military commander.