ASIA NEWS REPORT: by NAT da Polis
The earthquake shook the area of Van in the south east of the country, one of the most under-developed. Immediate offers of international aid, including that of Israel. Ankara declines, but without using harsh tones.
Istanbul (Asia News) - A tremendous earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale has hit the area of Van in south-eastern Turkey near the border with Iran and Armenia, not far from those areas where the last weeks there has been a resurgence of fighting between Turkish troops and Kurdish PKK groups. The affected areas are among the most under-developed in Turkey, and although the earthquake risk is very high, buildings there still do not meet the seismic criteria.
For the moment, 217 people have been declared dead, at least 1090 injured and 450 missing. Dozens of tall buildings have collapsed. According to the estimates of the Istanbul Geological Institute the death toll will probably rise to over 1000, in the most optimistic estimates.
Prime Minister Erdogan, accompanied by several cabinet ministers, immediately went to the area to coordinate relief and aid efforts.
NATO, China, the United States, Azerbaijan, Israel and several European countries have offered aid to the government in Ankara. Among the first to do so was the government in Tel Aviv, whose relations with Turkey were severed after the Israeli special forces attack on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara (May 31, 2010) which resulted in the death of 10 Turkish citizens. The Mavi Marmara was bound for Gaza to deliver aid to the Palestinian population victim of the Israeli blockade.
Israeli President Perez called the Turkish President Gul to express his solidarity and offer to send aid and logistical support to the Turkish people affected by the earthquake. This gesture has been interpreted by observers as an attempt to relaunch relations between Turkey and Israel, given the precedent with Greece and Turkey, after the terrible 1999 earthquake that struck the area of Izmir (ancient Nicaea). At the time it offered an opportunity to break the ice between Greece and Turkey after Greece has sent special teams to help the Turkish people.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack announced to the media that Turkey has refused the aid offered by Israel. The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, to smooth tones said that for the time being Ankara has refused all foreign aid. Clearly the time is not yet ripe