A merchant vessel carrying the first 600 of more than 1,000 NATO temporary housing containers for the victims of powerful earthquakes in Turkey left the port of Taranto, Italy, on Sunday evening, according to the alliance’s website.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on Feb. 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
The earthquakes have claimed the lives of more than 45,000 people in Turkey and Syria so far.
The shipment is the result of coordination between NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) to expedite the delivery of temporary housing for at least 4,000 people affected by the recent devastating earthquakes. It is expected to arrive in İskenderun next week, with the establishment of the camp expected to start once the equipment is off-loaded and delivered to the site.
A NATO joint civilian-military operational liaison and reconnaissance team have been preparing the site of the camp and coordinating logistics and local support. The port of Taranto opened operations at the weekend to accommodate both the off-loading and the loading of the ship outside of normal port hours. Additionally, NATO is coordinating the strategic airlift of tents from Pakistan to Turkey.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Turkey on Feb. 16, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other senior officials and conveyed solidarity with the Turkish people. He visited affected areas and met members of the NATO liaison and reconnaissance team on the ground.
“This is the deadliest natural disaster on alliance territory since NATO was founded,” Stoltenberg said during his visit, adding that NATO would use its “strategic airlift capabilities” to transport aid more quickly.