Turkey Requests Aid From Israel for First Time Since Struck by Devastating Earthquake

Israel to send portable structures to serve as temporary housing for those who lost their homes in the 7.2 magnitude quake; Turkey turned down Israeli aid twice before.

For the first time since a massive earthquake struck Turkey's east, Ankara has asked Israel for aid on Tuesday, after rejecting several offers by top Israeli officials in the last two days.

On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected an aid offer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone conversation between the two leaders, representing the second such rejection since a 7.2 magnitude quake struck Turkey.

Turkey evacuations - Reuters - October 2011

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On Sunday, despite the frantic search and rescue efforts, Turkey turned down Israel's offer, as well as similar offers from several other countries.

Ankara issued a statement saying that the extent of the damage was still being investigated and that no international aid was immediately needed.

However, Israeli officials indicated on Tuesday that Turkish officials have indeed issued an official request for aid, saying that the Turkish Foreign Ministry asked that Israel send portable structures to be used as temporary housing for those who lost their homes in the quake.

Following the request, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered Foreign Ministry director general Rafael Barak to contact the relevant officials in order to transport the needed equipment as soon as possible.

Officials indicated that the planned aid shipment was brought about following an initiative by President Shimon Peres, who contacted his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul immediately following the quake and offered relief.

Later Tuesday, a Turkish official indicated that Ankara decided to accept offers of assistance from foreign countries, including Israel, after emergency management authorities declared the country would need prefabricated homes and containers to house survivors.

He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules.

Speaking to Haaretz on Monday, several Turks expressed frustration for earthquake relief efforts, with one man saying there are simply not enough professionals.

"They work without careful handling. I do not understand why more international crews have not arrived. The Israelis have an excellent rescue team, why isnt [Prime Minister] Erdogan allowing them to come?

One rescue team worker that arrived in the region from Izmir in the early hours of the morning, admitted during his brief lunch break that his team was not able to find one survivor during their ten hour evacuation attempt.

The Turkish rescue teams are being aided by heavy equipment, but lack specialized equipment that could potentially open passageways into the rubble.

The death toll in the earthquake rose to 432 on Tuesday, with 1,352 people injured, the Disaster and Emergency Administration said in a statement. The Van region was also hit by a 5.4 magnitude aftershock on Tuesday, Turkey's Kandilli Observatory said.

Ozgur Monkul, operations officer for the international AKUT Search and Rescue Association told Haaretz on Tuesday that naturally rescue efforts are proceeding slowly, but we are still successfully finding survivors under buildings, and we will continue with our efforts in the coming days.

Turkey's request for aid follows a period of tension in Israel-Turkey ties, following Israel's 2010 raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which resulted in the deaths of 9 Turkish nationals.

Last month, Turkey decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Israel to the lowest possible level, with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying the downscale of was a direct response to Israel's refusal to apologize for the flotilla raid deaths.