Malaysia sends recce team to quake-hit Syria

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir

SEPANG: Malaysia is sending a special reconnaissance team to Syria to conduct an assessment of the humanitarian aid needed by the country which was also hit by a deadly earthquake earlier this month.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir (pic) said the 21-strong team led by deputy secretary-general for bilateral relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Datuk Norman Muhamad would survey the area and report as soon as possible for follow-up action to be taken.

"We are aware of the difficulty in entering Syria before due to, among other things, the sanctions imposed on the country, and a few days ago, the restrictions were lifted to allow humanitarian aid to enter.

"Malaysia did not wait long and we continued to act and held discussions with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who immediately asked us to make preparations to send an advance team tonight,” he told reporters at the send-off of the special team here on Tuesday (Feb 14).

Also present was the Chargé d'Affaires of the Syrian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Mohd Ghiath Ibrahim.

Zambry said the special team consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), Royal Malaysia Police and the Ministry of Health as well as the Malaysian Red Crescent Society and MERCY Malaysia.

"This team’s expertise (also) consists of various agencies, the background (of team members) is in the field of medicine, security, search and rescue (SAR) experts and logistics.

"This is very important because we want to take proactive action to help Syria and the most important thing is that information should be conveyed immediately for us to take follow-up action so we don’t have to wait for them to return before sending (aid),” he said, adding that Malaysia is also planning to send an ATM team to establish a field hospital there.

Zambry said the team would fly from here to Istanbul, Turkiye and to Beirut, Lebanon before entering Syria by land.

"We pray for our team going there, hopefully with good intentions they will arrive there and perform their duties as best as possible in providing humanitarian aid,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mohd Ghiath said the Syrian people thanked the Malaysian government and its people for the humanitarian aid forthcoming.

"I would like to thank (Malaysia) for the assistance to Syria and the help you are going to send. Currently, we are facing a shortage of everything like medicine, fuel, and electricity and many people there are in trouble," he said.

Earlier, Anwar when answering a question about Malaysia’s position regarding the sending of aid teams to Syria in Parliament on Tuesday, said the aid that would be sent there are funds and medical supplies including hospital equipment to operate a field hospital.

On Feb 6, two strong earthquakes hit the south and southeast of Turkey and the northwest of Syria, which recorded more than 35,000 casualties in the two countries, with tens of thousands more injured.

The first earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck at 4:17 am (01:17 GMT) and was centred in the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras province and less than 12 hours later, a magnitude 7.6 aftershock hit the same area. - Bernama

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