ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government announced on Wednesday it would set up a relief fund for victims of the devastating earthquake in Turkiye and Syria, urging people to “generously donate” as the combined death toll in the two countries crossed 11,000.
Rescue activities continue in Syria and Turkiye after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the two countries earlier this week. According to World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, time is running out for the thousands injured and those still feared trapped.
Reports emerging from the two countries say thousands have taken refuge from rains, snow, and aftershocks in mosques, schools, and bus shelters after losing their apartments and houses.
Some estimates suggest that nearly 23 million people have been affected by the quake which will require significant relief and reconstruction activities in the coming days.
To help Turkiye speed up its reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday announced the premier’s move to establish a relief fund for the earthquake victims. He added that members of Pakistan’s federal cabinet have also decided to donate their one-month salaries to the fund.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has established the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for Turkiye Earthquake Victims,” Dar said during a presser on Wednesday. “Upon the proposal and suggestion of the premier, all members of the federal cabinet will donate one month’s salary to the relief fund,” he added.
He requested the nation to donate generously for the people of Turkiye and Syria suffering from the earthquake. Dar added that whenever Pakistan found itself in crisis, Turkiye always stood by the South Asian nation’s side and came to its help.
“When the devastating floods hit Pakistan last year, that incurred a loss of $30 billion according to estimates, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife visited Pakistan and donated wholeheartedly,” he said.
He said it was now time for Pakistanis to show the same generosity toward the people of Turkiye.
“The devastation in Turkiye and Syria is such that irrespective of how much we donate, it will still not be enough,” he said. “I, therefore, request you all to participate in this noble cause for the sake of [humanity] and to please God.”
The finance czar added that parliamentarians are also considering giving up a portion of their salaries and donating it to the fund. He added that tax relief would be provided to citizens if they decide to send the donations.
Earlier today, PM Sharif, who had announced that he would travel to Turkiye to express solidarity with its people and government, said that his trip had to be postponed due to theongoing relief activities in the country.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already sent two planeloads of relief goods to Turkiye and Syria.
The goods were sent to the Syrian capital of Damascus by a specially chartered plane from Islamabad airport.
The NDMA said more relief materials would also be sent “for Syrian brothers and sisters affected by the earthquake.”
The Pakistan Air Force also said in a statement on Wednesday it had dispatched tents, blankets, and other essential items on two C-130s to Turkiye to help people.