Tech companies offer Turkey earthquake aid after Ankara rejects Elon Musk’s Starlink offer

Tech companies offer Turkey earthquake aid after Ankara rejects Elon Musk’s Starlink offer

Amazon, Google and Apple will send aid to disaster-stricken Turkey, the corporations said on Tuesday, a day after Turkish authorities declined an offer of assistance from tech entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk to send his space-based internet service Starlink to the region.

Critical infrastructure across swathes of southern Turkey has been devastated by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake, and a similarly large aftershock, but Turkish officials said they had ample resources to maintain internet connections.

Turkey’s rejection of Mr Musk’s offer came as Amazon pledged “donated relief items from our fulfilment centre in Istanbul to affected areas”.

The corporation, which has sent disaster assistance to hurricane-stricken parts of the US, said its donations “will include items such as blankets, tents, heaters, food, diapers, baby food, medicine, and other emergency items as victims face not only the damage from the earthquake but frigid winter weather”.

Mr Musk said on Twitter that one of his companies, Space Exploration Technologies, could provide the Starlink network as soon as approved by the Turkish government.

An official from Ankara thanked Mr Musk but said Turkey had sufficient satellite capacity.

Mr Musk was not the only tech luminary to pledge services, rather than direct humanitarian assistance. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that his corporation would enable “SOS Alerts to provide relevant emergency information to those impacted”.

Google describes SOS Alerts as a tool to “make emergency information more accessible during a crisis”.

“Depending on the nature of the crisis and your location, you’ll see updates from local, national, or international authorities. These updates could include emergency phone numbers and websites, maps, translations of useful phrases, donation opportunities, and more,” the corporation says on its website.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that his company would “contribute to the relief and restoration operations” following the disaster.

Turkey is facing “one of biggest disasters” in its history, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, as the World Health Organisation warned the death toll in both Turkey and Syria could hit 20,000. A state of emergency will be in place for three months in 10 provinces hit by massive quakes.

In the past, Mr Musk had offered to assist states in times of crisis.

His offer of the Starlink network connection for Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion last year, was welcomed by the Ukrainian government.

The space-based system, that communicates with ground-based sensors, has been used in conflict-affected areas by civilians without internet connections as well as by Ukrainian soldiers, co-ordinating over vast distances.

In Iran, following the anti-government protests and the cutting of internet and services, the billionaire said he had activated Starlink’s internet service last October and now claims 100 Starlink terminals are active in the country.

Mr Musk said that effort was in support of a US government initiative to spread the free flow of information in the theocratic state.

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