Turkey earthquake: Government will accept foreign aid

The BBC's Tim Wilcox spoke to a rescue worker about the rescue effort

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Turkey will accept offers of aid from foreign countries to cope with the aftermath of the Van earthquake, after initially declining offers of help.

Officials said that, with more than 2,000 buildings destroyed, there was an urgent need for accommodation.

The death toll from the disaster stood at 461 but the Red Crescent fears hundreds are still trapped under rubble, feared dead.

A teacher, 27, and a student, 18, were rescued on Wednesday in Ercis.

Gozde Bahar, an English-language teacher, was rescued as her mother watched in tears.

University student Eyup Erdem was found using tiny cameras mounted on sticks.

Rescuers broke into applause as he emerged from the debris.

Caravans needed

Turkey is seeking assistance for reconstruction and temporary accommodation for the thousands who have been left homeless, the semi-official news agency Anatolia reports.

Analysis

From the start, the Turkish government has insisted it can deal with the impact of the earthquake on its own. It is a relatively wealthy and modern country, with experienced disaster management teams in place.

Now it has reversed course, requesting aid even from Israel, with which it has had difficult relations in recent years.

The reason is that Turkey is short of some items, like prefabricated housing, vital for areas of eastern Turkey where tens of thousands have either lost their homes or cannot risk going back to damaged houses.

The weather is already cold, and will become much colder in a couple of months. Rescue workers are continuing to dig in the rubble of collapsed buildings, spurred on by finding a handful of survivors, among them a two-week-old baby.

The government is seeking tents, prefabricated houses and living containers, it says.

Israel will be among the first to send aid, according to AFP news agency.

Ties with Turkey have been strained since May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla trying to sail to Gaza in defiance of a blockade, killing nine Turks.

"Turkey has asked us for caravans for the homeless after the earthquake," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.

He said they had accepted the request and would seek to supply them as quickly as possible.

Israel's defence ministry said a first Boeing 747 would transport mobile homes to Turkey on Wednesday, and other planes would follow in the coming days.

The Japanese embassy in Ankara said its government would send around $400,000 (£250,000), Anatolia reports.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Ercis, says that the government has recognised that it now needs specific help in technical areas where it lacks the resources to get things up fast enough.

Aid trucks looted

The Turkish government has pledged more aid to the thousands made homeless and aid agencies have set up field hospitals and kitchens and distributed thousands of tents and blankets.

But survivors, many now living in camps, have fought over shipments of aid and blocked aid shipments.

Health officials have urged them to drink bottled water after detecting an increase in diarrhoea cases, especially among children.

Nazmi Gur, a local politician in Van, told the BBC News website that "hundreds of thousands of people" needed help.

Two people were pulled from the rubble on Wednesday

"We can provide food but they desperately need shelter," he added.

The Turkish Red Crescent said that 17 trucks carrying aid had been looted in Van and Ercis.

People in Ercis, which bore the full brunt of the quake, told AFP that unidentified individuals had stopped a truck carrying tents. They told AFP they suspected the goods would be sold on the black market.

Local officials in Van said that early on Wednesday, dozens of survivors, furious at not receiving aid supplies, had raided trucks carrying food and blankets in the city of Van.

Turkish officials have warned that the death toll is likely to rise but there has been no official estimate of the number of people missing.

Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines.

The latest disaster struck on Sunday at 13:41 (10:41 GMT) at a depth of 20km (12 miles), with its epicentre 16km north-east of the city of Van.

Turkey earthquake map

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