The UK has sent thousands of thermal blankets to Turkey – and is planning to build a field hospital to treat those critically injured after Monday’s devastating earthquake.
Rescue teams on the ground are making a final push to find survivors, in what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described as the “disaster of the century”.
More than 20,500 people are now confirmed dead across Turkey and Syria, with tens of thousands badly hurt following the 7.8 magnitude quake and subsequent aftershocks.
With countless buildings destroyed, and many others structurally weakened, attention is turning to helping survivors stay warm while temperatures remain below freezing in places.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the thermal blankets have been flown on an RAF transport plane tonight, with additional emergency aid to be issued in the coming days.
In a statement, it said a newly constructed field hospital will be equipped with a 24/7 operating theatre as well as beds for high-dependency patients.
A C130 Hercules aircraft and a critical care support team are also en route to reach those in hard-hit areas, and move casualties across the country.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK stands ready to assist our close allies and friends during this terrible time. We will keep options open for further assistance as required.”
Across Turkey and Syria, the number of fatalities now far exceeds the 18,400 who died in a 2011 earthquake off Fukushima in Japan, and the 18,000 killed after the Istanbul quake of 1999.
Officials fear there will be many more deaths in the days ahead, and the chances of finding survivors are dimming fast – meaning rescue teams are having to make difficult choices.
In Adiyaman, someone was seen pleading with rescuers to look through the rubble of a building where their relatives were trapped. They refused – saying no one was alive there and they needed to prioritise areas where there is a hope of finding survivors.
Experts say it is possible that people could survive a week or more within a collapsed building, but far fewer survivors are being pulled from wreckage.
A two-year-old boy was rescued after spending 79 hours under rubble in Hatay – raising spirits among exhausted search crews.
And in Antakya, footage from local media showed a 10-year-old girl being found alive. Medics had to amputate an arm to free her, and her parents and three siblings died.
Appeal for donations launched
The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched an appeal for funds which has gained the support of celebrities such as Daniel Craig, Sir Michael Palin, and Tamsin Greig – and received the backing of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
The money will provide medical treatment for the injured, shelter for those who have lost their homes, as well as blankets, warm clothes and heaters for safe spaces.
They are also ensuring that people have enough food and clean water – with the DEC expecting humanitarian needs to grow in the coming days.
Local volunteers have set up aid centres, distributing food, water and warm clothes to those affected, and are transporting supplies to villages hit the hardest.
The UK government will match the first £5m of donations from the public.
White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer organisation, said rescuers are now at a critical point as time runs out, and warned: “Every second means saving a life.”
There will be a special programme called Disaster Zone: The Turkey-Syria Earthquake on Sky News on Friday at 9.30pm