Armenia sends aid after eastern Turkey earthquake
Published: Sunday October 23, 2011
Yerevan - The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the October 23 earthquake was centered to the east and northeast of Lake Van and measured 7.2 on Richter scale; as of October 29 official death toll surpassed 580 with more than 2,500 injured.
Buildings swayed in Yerevan, some 250 kilometers to the north, and people rushed outside, but no damage or injuries were reported in Armenia, where tremors measured between 3 and 5.
The earthquake was the strongest for Armenia's neighborhood since the 1999 quake near Izmit, Turkey that killed more than 17,000 and the 2003 earthquake centered on Bam, Iran that killed an estimated 30,000.
Aid declined, then dispatched
Hours after the tremor, Armenia offered to send rescuers to Van - which is only a short 40-minute flight from Yerevan - and the country's Crisis Management Center met to discuss preparedness of rescue units, the Public Radio reported.
In a message sharing "profound pain and sorrow" and condolences for the victims, Armenia's President Serge Sargsyan informed Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul that "Armenia's specialized rescue division is put on alert to be able to reach the epicenter as soon as possible and start immediately its rescue operations," according to a message quoted by Mediamax news agency.
Offers of help also came from U.S. and other countries, but Turkish officials initially declined all foreign assistance, saying they had sufficient resources to deal with the crisis on their own.
But days later, Turkish officials acknowledged a shortage of tents and other needs and reversed its decision on declining foreign aid; Hurriyet Daily News also cited local residents as saying that there was also a shortage of rescuers.
Following formal Turkish agreement Armenia dispatched a transport plane with humanitarian aid, including tents, sleeping bags and other supplies on October 28.
In Istanbul, the local Armenian community joined national efforts in collecting assistance for the victims, and in the United States the Armenian churches were encouraged to contribute to quake relief.
Armenian American visitors "unaffected"
A delegation from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America led by Archbishop Khajag Barasamian was in Turkey last weekend for consecration of the recently restored Surb Giragos cathedral in Diyarbakir, some 370 kilometers west of Van.
Diyarbakir and Armenian visitors were "safe and were not affected in any way by the earthquake," the Diocese reported in a statement on October 23.
The Surb Giragos consecration drew nearly 2000 people and took place before the earthquake. The $2.5 million restoration was paid for through donations of Armenian communities in Istanbul and elsewhere in Diaspora, as well as the Diyarbakir city government.
But associated celebrations were already scaled back after intense deadly clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdish rebels earlier in the week, News.am reported.
The Diocese group had plans to visit Van but cancelled them following the earthquake and had instead returned to Istanbul.
News.am also cited Turkish Armenian newspaper Agos as reporting that the Surb Khach cathedral recently restored on the island of Akhtamar in Lake Van was not damaged by the quake.