2011-11-02

Macedonia offers assistance to earthquake-stricken Turkey

The two countries have a track record of helping one another in times of natural disasters.

By Goran Trajkov for SES Türkiye in Skopje -- 02/11/11

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Macedonia is providing state, local and individual assistance to its ally Turkey, following the earthquake that rocked the eastern cities of Ercis and Van on October 23rd, killing 582 and wounding over 4,000 people.

  • Macedonia-Turkey Association Kemal Ataturk President Shenol Memish and Turkish Ambassador Gjurol Sokmensuer. [Courtesy of Shenol Memish]

    Macedonia-Turkey Association Kemal Ataturk President Shenol Memish and Turkish Ambassador Gjurol Sokmensuer. [Courtesy of Shenol Memish]

"The Macedonian government decided to donate 100,000 euros to the earthquake victims in Turkey. In addition, we offered technical assistance to the affected region -- in communication with the Turkish Embassy in Skopje -- in terms of sending teams to repair the earthquake damage," spokesperson Martin Martinovski told SES Türkiye.

The government also appointed minister without portfolio Hadi Neziri to maintain contact with the Turkish Embassy in Skopje.

Martinovski explained that Macedonia often provides assistance to countries affected with catastrophic natural disasters because it has itself been generously helped in the past.

Skopje is often dubbed a "city of international solidarity" given the outpouring of assistance it received after the devastating earthquake in 1963. Turkey was among the countries that helped.

The Skopje local government also often provides disaster assistance. More recently, the city responded to earthquake damage in Haiti, flood damage in the Albanian city of Skadar and the earthquake-nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

This time, the Skopje city government allocated 25,000 euros from its budget to assist earthquake victims in Van.

"The suggestion [to offer financial assistance] was unanimously adopted. The funds will be transferred immediately once the decision becomes final," city spokesperson Nedelcho Krstevski told SES Türkiye.

First to act was the Macedonia-Turkey Association Kemal Ataturk, which initiated humanitarian action via social media in co-operation with the Turkish Embassy in Skopje.

"The association initially planned to send food, water, clothing as well as housing, personal hygiene and other items," Association President Shenol Memish told SES Türkiye.

"But the embassy informed us such a move will not be cost-effective, given the affected area is 2,000km away and there are already similar activities throughout Turkey," he said.

The embassy suggested instead that association friends and members send funds to the three bank accounts at the Turkish Red Crescent, which co-operates with Macedonia's Red Cross.

The Macedonian Red Cross opened a bank account for citizens to provide individual financial help, which will be transferred to victims on November 30th.

"There is specific need for items like blankets and tents, given the low temperatures in the earthquake region," Memish said.

Turkish Honourary Consul in Macedonia Omer Sulejman points out that the Macedonian government, individual citizens, and the country's Turkish community acted particularly generously during the last devastating earthquake in Izmit near Istanbul in 1999, in which 20,000 people died.

"The number of victims was huge, and at the time we sent trucks full of medical supplies, home necessities, blankets and water. Macedonian volunteer medical teams went in the field as well," Sulejman told SES Türkiye.

"This time," he said, "we talked to the Turkish ambassador about what is needed the most, and offered medical supplies, sanitary materials and blood, and are awaiting an answer."

Parliamentarian Kenan Hasip, an ethnic Turk, told SES Türkiye that the Turkish community in Macedonia is grateful for the help.

"These are very good gestures, especially because the two countries are very friendly, I would venture to say, brotherly countries. ... We can only wish such disasters are fewer in number in the future."

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