One of the first UK aid flights to Turkey left Heathrow airport on Tuesday, containing more than £350,000 worth of supplies for those in need following last week’s earthquake in the region.

A specially chartered Virgin Atlantic cargo only flight departed at 1030 UK time transporting 64 pallets of clothing and other essential supplies, including 31,000 coats and blankets and almost a tonne (990kg) of infant milk powder.

The destination of the flight is Adana, a city approximately 115 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake, in Gaziantep province. The shipment will be handled on the ground by AFAD, the Turkish Government’s Aid Agency.

Massive earthquake

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Turkey near the Syrian border in the early hours of February 6th, with tens of millions of people impacted. The number of people confirmed to have died has risen to over 33,000 and the World Health Organisation has warned that ensuring access to medical care and health services in the aftermath is critical.

The humanitarian mission, pulled together in less than seven days, is being led by Magen David Adom UK and is a combined effort by a number of organisations, including crisis response charity Goods for Goods, medicines supplier Durban and Virgin Atlantic, who have donated the flight.

The airline and Magen David Adom UK have partnered on humanitarian missions before, including Project Light in March 2022, which saw 61 Ukrainian refugees arrive on British soil in the initial weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Vital supplies

Shai Weiss, CEO at Virgin Atlantic, commented: “The loss of life and scenes of destruction in Turkey and Syria following the earthquake are truly devastating. We are doing all we can to support the relief effort and are pleased to once again partner with MDA UK to transport vital supplies to the region.

“Virgin Atlantic and its partners are united in the belief that business can be a force for good and we’ll continue to stand ready should further opportunities arise.”

Daniel Burger, CEO of Magen David Adom UK, said: “The UK public has made a heartfelt and generous response to those affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake but it is vital those donations turn into aid as quickly as possible to help those in need.

“The response by all the charities involved to turn around such a huge aid operation so quickly has been an incredible effort and we’d like to thank all those involved for making this happen.”

True power of UK’s aviation sector

Aviation Minister Baroness Vere said: “The magnitude of recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria is beyond comprehension. With sub-zero temperatures compounding the devastation, millions of people across the region continue to lack access to shelter and warmth.

“That’s why the UK has sent thousands of life-saving items to Turkey and north-west Syria, including tents, thermal blankets and hygiene kits.

“I thank Virgin Atlantic for their efforts, whose flight today demonstrates the true power of the UK’s aviation sector to reach those most in need in the hardest hit areas.”
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