Feb. 9, 2023

A webinar hosted by International SOS offered guidance to business aircraft operators in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northeastern Syria this week.

The magnitude 7.8 quake caused “massive devastation,” noted Security Manager Hussein Salama, including significant damage to runways at Turkey’s Hatay Airport (LTDA). Other major airports in the region are open, but with space at a premium and priority given to humanitarian flights. Fuel and other services may also not be yet available.

“One of the first major challenges we encountered was that a lot of the infrastructure in the area had been destroyed or damaged,” he continued. “Rescue teams and emergency services had a lot of difficulty getting in.”

International SOS encouraged companies to defer all non-essential travel to impacted areas for at least the next several weeks. Those who must fly into the region should “ensure access to robust communications and emergency supplies, including food, water and medicine.”

Companies wishing to provide assistance should coordinate with humanitarian agencies already in the area, noted Dr. Ryan Copeland, regional medical director, over planning their own dedicated relief flights.

“Given the scale of the international response and current air traffic congestion being experienced, our guidance would be to contact your local aid agencies or national response line to confirm which would be the best channel to steer donations,” he added.

Subzero temperatures and snowfall, as well as Syria’s ongoing civil war, further complicate efforts to rescue and care for survivors following the earthquake.

“Every significant aftershock resets response operations,” added Joshua Dozer, general manager of assistance operations. “We have to take that into consideration as aftershocks expand the scope of impact.”

Copeland further encouraged companies to review their crisis response, mental health and employee assistance programs to assist staff members on the ground in Turkey, or who may have family members in the affected region.

“We’re receiving a lot of requests from employees or family members in the affected areas,” he said. “These are mothers and parents and uncles and aunts of employees [who are in] a very difficult situation.”