More than 200 planes of quake aid flown to Syria: Official

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More than 200 planeloads of aid have been flown to government-held parts of Syria since the February 6 earthquake, nearly half from the United Arab Emirates, an official said Wednesday.

The aid has come mostly from allies of President Bashar al-Assad’s government since the 7.8-magnitude quake struck the war-torn country and neighboring Turkey, killing more than 45,000 people.

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“Until now 213 planes carrying quake aid have landed in Syria,” including 92 from the UAE, Suleiman Khalil, an official from Syria’s transport ministry, told AFP.

After more than a decade of war, Assad’s government remains a pariah in the West.

But the earthquake that killed more 3,600 people in Syria has sparked Arab outreach to his internationally isolated government, which was expelled from the Arab League after the conflict erupted in 2011.

The UAE, the first Gulf country to normalize ties with the Assad government after a years-long boycott, is largely spearheading regional relief efforts.

Its health minister Abdul Rahman al-Owais went on an official trip Tuesday to Syria’s quake-hit coast, which is under government control, and told reporters he wished for “a united stance globally to face this huge humanitarian challenge.”

The latest flight to land in Damascus was a Norwegian plane carrying 14 tonnes of Red Cross aid including large tents with stoves, water pumps and water purification equipment.

“Those affected are very vulnerable due to years of war and crisis,” said Joergen Haldorsen of the Norwegian Red Cross.

Damascus also made an official plea to the European Union for help two days after the deadly earthquake struck, with the EU commission encouraging members to respond to the request.

Syria’s civil war, which was triggered by the government’s suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations, has claimed around 500,000 lives and displaced around half the country’s pre-war population.

Even before the earthquake, most of the population was in need of humanitarian assistance. The latest disaster has only piled on more misery.

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