The Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue Team is heading to Turkey to help in the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes that devastated Turkey and northern Syria on Monday.
As of Tuesday, the death toll from the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes and multiple aftershocks is now at least 7,000 and the number of injured is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
It’s one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the region in a century and the frigid weather is complicating the search for survivors.
Armed with medical and rescue equipment, 10 volunteers with BSAR are making the 15-hour flight hoping to aid in recovery efforts and search for buried victims.
“We are all volunteers. The reason we are doing this is because we feel lucky to live where we are, and so when we see stuff like this, we want to help,” said Ryan Berry with BUSAR.
“We’re a technical search team. We have equipment that can help locate buried victims that have been trapped in collapsed rubble. We’re bringing a whole bunch of first aid equipment. We have some recovery equipment, some water, basic supplies and some technical rescue equipment.”
The team was previously dispatched to Nepal after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2015, which killed about 9,000 people and injured 100,000 others.
They also travelled to the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
Berry says the team is not sure yet exactly where in Turkey they will be assigned — but time is of the essence.
“I think there are six or seven major city centres that are really struggling for help, (we will) probably be assigned there and meet with the local people in charge and they will assign us.”
Most of them are firefighters from Burnaby and one is from White Rock.
It’s estimated more than 5,700 buildings have collapsed in Turkey, and it’s now a race against time as the global community offers assistance for a massive rescue effort.
Meanwhile, other volunteers like Shawn Mohammed are putting their home life on hold to help with the recovery.
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“I am leaving my five-year-old’s birthday but I promised him a couple of really good transformers when I get back,” he said.
“I have a really understanding wife and kids so they know this is the right thing to do.”
After being given the green light by the Turkish Consulate, the Burnaby USAR will be taking off tonight (Monday) and will be there for a week, returning on Feb. 14th.
“What we witness is that the destruction, what happened in one day it’s like it’s like a war zone and it happened overnight,” said Mehmet Taylan Tokmak with the Turkish Consulate General in Vancouver.
“Right now even the remaining buildings are collapsing. But (the volunteers) make me so happy. (It is) encouraging and it makes me so emotional at the same time.”
Turkish Airlines is also carrying 11 pallets and two tonnes of donations collected in just one day from the local Turkish community.
— with files from Catherine Garrett, Global News