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First NATO planes fly UNHCR earthquake supplies from Turkey

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First NATO planes fly UNHCR earthquake supplies from Turkey

19 October 2005

19 October 2005

GENEVA - The first three flights in a new joint NATO-UNHCR airlift supported by the Turkish government took off from Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey around midday Wednesday, carrying a total of more than 25 tonnes of urgently needed relief supplies for earthquake victims in Pakistan.

The French, British and Greek C-130 transport planes, carrying a cargo of tents, blankets and stoves, are the first flights in a major airlift out of the NATO base in Turkey that will ferry some 860 tonnes of aid from the UN refugee agency's regional warehouse in nearby Iskenderun.

"Although UNHCR worked closely with non-combatant NATO forces in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during the Kosovo crisis, this is the first time the UN refugee agency and NATO have mounted a joint airlift of this size," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said at the agency's headquarters in Geneva.

Dozens of sorties by NATO aircraft will probably be required to move all of the supplies, which are being transferred from Iskenderun to Incirlik by Turkish-provided trucks and troops. The governor of Adana, where Incirlik is located, is assisting with the provision of military troops and equipment to help shift the supplies.

The French and British flights will stop for refuelling in Kuwait today before proceeding to Islamabad, where they are expected to arrive Thursday morning.

In all, the NATO/UNHCR airlift out of Turkey will deliver nearly 10,000 family tents, around 104,000 blankets and 2,000 stoves stockpiled in the UNHCR warehouses in Turkey.

The exact number of flights that will be necessary will depend on the type of planes made available by individual NATO countries. So far, a total of 11 C-130 planes have been offered by the UK, Italy, France, Turkey and Greece, and other NATO countries may join the operation in the coming days.

Hundreds of tonnes of UNHCR relief supplies, including thousands of urgently needed tents, are also being rushed from other stockpiles around the world to help Pakistan's earthquake victims. The provision of tents has become one of the most urgent priorities, as hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors from an estimated 15,000 affected Himalayan towns and villages struggle to find any kind of shelter amid a deadly mix of continuing aftershocks, broken supply routes and cold, wet weather, which may soon turn to snow.

In addition to the joint NATO/UNHCR airlift from Turkey, another eight UNHCR flights have arrived or are currently in the air from Dubai, Jordan and Denmark.

Supplies have also been arriving by land, with a giant UNHCR-WFP convoy of 47 trucks, carrying 1,500 ten-person tents, 50,000 plastic sheets, 20,000 blankets and 10,000 jerry cans from UNHCR warehouses in Afghanistan, reaching the Pakistani city of Peshawar late on Monday.

In all, the UN refugee agency is currently planning to ship a total of more than 15,000 tents, 220,000 blankets, 69,000 plastic sheets, 500 plastic rolls, 32,000 kitchen sets, 2,000 stoves and 5,000 lanterns from its stockpiles around the world.

UNHCR has appealed for $22 million to fund its activities in the earthquake affected areas. So far, Sweden has pledged US$ 2.57 million, Japan has announced a US$1 million contribution, and Italy has said it will give €250,000.