ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has established a relief fund to help earthquake-hit people of Turkiye and appealed to Pakistanis to generously donate to the fund, his office said on Tuesday, as death toll from Monday’s quake in Turkiye and Syria rose above 6,200.
Rescuers in Turkiye and Syria battled frigid cold on Tuesday in a race against time to find survivors under buildings flattened by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake..
Tremors that inflicted more suffering on a border area, already plagued by conflict, left people on the streets burning debris to try to stay warm as international aid began to arrive. The latest toll showed 4,544 people killed in Turkiye and 1,712 in Syria, for a combined total of 6,256 fatalities.
Pakistan PM Sharif presided over a meeting of his cabinet, wherein members announced donating their one-month salary to the relief fund for the Turkish people.
“Turkiye generously helped Pakistan during the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 and 2022 floods,” PM Sharif’s office quoted him as saying in a statement.
“I have established PM’s Relief Fund for Turkiye Earthquake Victims. People and well-off individuals should deposit their generous donations into account G-12166.”
Pakistan on Tuesday called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye and Syria, and dispatched rescue teams and emergency goods, as the confirmed death toll across the two countries soared above 5,000 after a deadly earthquake hit the region a day earlier.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said PM Sharif would depart for Ankara on Wednesday to “express his condolences,” adding that a planned all-parties conference on Feb. 9 would be rescheduled.
“It breaks the heart to witness sheer scale of unfolding human tragedy,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “Solidarity should translate into tangible & timely material support for suffering humanity.”
“Special teams consisting of Pakistani doctors, paramedics and rescue personnel are being sent to Turkiye to lend a hand in the ongoing rescue and relief operations,” Sharif had said on Monday, adding that planeloads of essential items and medicines would also be dispatched.
On Monday night, a Pakistan military plane was sent, “carrying Army’s Search and Rescue Team, directly to Turkiye earthquake area.”
On Tuesday morning, a 51-member rescue team left from Lahore for Turkiye via national carrier PIA with seven tons of rescue equipment.
“They will be on ground soon as part of government of Pakistan’s contributions in rescue efforts. Hearts & prayers,” PIA said.
Another military plane was to fly out to Istanbul on Tuesday, carrying seven tons of cargo, including winterised tents, blankets and other articles.
Hundreds are still believed to be trapped under rubble across the two nations, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers search mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, preparing for a tough election in May, has called the quake a historic disaster and said authorities were doing all they could.
“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts although the winter season, cold weather and the earthquake happening during the night makes things more difficult,” he said. He said 45 countries had offered to help the search and rescue efforts.
The earthquake, which was followed by a series of aftershocks, was the biggest recorded worldwide by the US Geological Survey since a tremor in the remote South Atlantic in August 2021.
It was the deadliest earthquake in Turkiye since a quake of similar magnitude in 1999 that killed more than 17,000.