Iskenderun Port Fire Finally Under Control After Intense Two-Day Battle
The devastating fire at the Port of Iskenderun has finally been extinguished, Turkey’s ministry of defense announced Tuesday. It is the second time that the ministry has reported that the fire has been put out; after the previous announcement Tuesday, the blaze resumed at scale, and firefighters managed to contain it later that night.
Iskenderun’s container terminal is still closed due to “severe structural damage,” which forced the facility to halt all operations. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck southern Turkey on Monday had a significant impact on the port, toppling stacks of containers and cracking pavement. The physical damage is severe enough that container lines are diverting vessels to other ports, like nearby Mersin.
The quake also sparked a fire in the center of the terminal’s container storage area. Turkey’s coast guard deployed a vessel to apply water from the quayside, and the Turkish air force and army sent aircraft to drop fire retardant on the blaze. The fire spread despite these efforts, but was finally contained Tuesday night.
Now that the fire has been extinguished, Turkish vessels are delivering aid cargoes to Iskenderun for use in emergency relief efforts in the quake-damaged region. A massive search and rescue operation is under way to save residents trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings across a wide swath of southern Turkey. Time is of the essence, as cold winter temperatures create a risk of hypothermia for any survivors. As of Wednesday, the death toll across Syria and Turkey has reached nearly 12,000, with tens of thousands more wounded.
Among the relief vessels headed for southern Turkey are two Spanish Navy warships, the amphibs Juan Carlos I and Galicia. Juan Carlos brings a task force of 500 marines and a fully-equipped shipboard hospital, and the Galicia is carrying a cargo of aid supplies. Spain is also sending a field hospital with 70 doctors and two surgical units for deployment in the disaster zone.
The timeline for restoration of commercial port services in Iskenderun is not yet known.