Leading aircraft charter company, Air Charter Service, has arranged multiple passenger and cargo aircraft charters into Turkey and Syria to transport search and rescue teams from around Europe, along with essential humanitarian aid for the victims of the devastating earthquakes last week. The first of its flights from Spain arrived on Tuesday morning, and the UK government’s arrived later that day.
Early on the morning of Monday, 6th February, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck southern Turkey, near the city of Gaziantep, close to the Turkey-Syria border. Just a few hours later, a second tremor, measuring 7.5, struck the country, only 80 miles north of the first. Both earthquakes caused widespread damage and have so far between them claimed more than 40,000 lives.
Ben Dinsdale, Director for Government and Humanitarian Services at ACS, said, “We started receiving calls from both governments and NGOs later in the morning last Monday. Following some research, we ascertained that Gaziantep Airport – closest to the epicentre – was, fortunately, still fully functional. This was ideal for search and rescue teams, but that meant that it would become exceptionally busy very quickly and, at the time, had limited loading equipment, so it was not the best choice for our first few cargo charters. Adana, however, had more room, as well as a high loader available, and Damascus in Syria also had good availability of loading equipment.
“By Tuesday morning, we had our first representative on the ground at Gaziantep Airport overseeing the arrival of our first flight – a chartered Airbus A330-200 from Germany, carrying a search and rescue team on board. Later in the day, the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s first search and rescue team, including dogs, to the affected areas arrived on board another Airbus A330-200, which was also carrying vital cargo in its hold.
“So far, we have had several aircraft land in Gaziantep with search and rescue teams from around Europe. Towards the end of last week, we started flying in cargo charters, the first of which arrived in Adana, from Spain, on Thursday on a Boeing B747-400 carrying an entire field hospital. Since then, we have arranged multiple charters on aircraft, including IL-76, B737, B747, B757 and B777, into Adana and Damascus, as well as one each to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and Aleppo, Syria.
“Having someone on the ground in Gaziantep so soon after the initial earthquake was a huge help in coordinating the passenger charters we had going in, as well as letting us know that a main-deck high loader had arrived from Istanbul. He had to sleep at the airport itself and was available to assist with all our flights at any hour of the day. In addition, with many cargo flights now going into Adana, we have also flown someone in to oversee everything there.”
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