But a group from Burnaby, B.C., helped pull a woman to safety Thursday after she became trapped in the rubble.
More than 23,000 people are now believed to have died in the quake, which was measured at 7.8 on the Richter scale.
One day later, members of the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR), which is made up of firefighters and others boarded a plane at Vancouver International Airport on their way to Turkey to help.
The woman they helped rescue had been trapped in Adiyaman, a city in southeastern Turkey.
“What’s happened is, the bottom three or four floors of these concrete buildings have just collapsed and the top floors have just settled on top,” Ryan Berry, part of the Burnaby USAR Team, told Global News.
“So she was in one of those floors so there was probably about a two-foot gap.”
Berry said they have been using cameras and acoustic equipment to determine where survivors might be buried.
However, while the Burnaby USAR Team was able to deploy quickly, the Vancouver Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team remains at home.
“Our team is made up of 150 or so people,” Justin Mulcahy, Vancouver Fire and Rescue assistant chief and the spokesperson for the team, said.
“About 80 per cent of the team consists of Vancouver fire members as well. We partner with B.C. Ambulance, the Vancouver Police Department, as well we have members of our team from the City of Vancouver, including structural engineers, (and) some medical staff. And, you know, really, we are a combined task force that is designed exactly for this type of emergency.”
Mulcahy said the issue for their team comes when it is an international deployment.
“Our team is most valuable in that first 72-hour period where we can use our technical search abilities, our K-9 people, our are highly specialized teams that can reach through concrete, provide structural shoring, do those types of things,” he added. “Those types of activities are best used in this critical 72-hour window.”
Mulcahy explained that there is a search and rescue advisory group that oversees the teams. The teams that can be deployed nationally have to be certified by this group.
“We are actively involved in a process right now to have our team meet a national accreditation standard,” he said. “So we are currently meeting with the six teams across Canada to develop the standard accreditation process to make that a reality.
“If this request had come in in the future when these arrangements had been made fully, we would have been in a much better position to immediately deploy people to make a difference in this region.”
Mulcahy added that he wants people to know the Vancouver HUSAR and the Burnaby USAR Team are not the same.
“I really do want to emphasize that this group is a very small group of very well-intentioned people,” he said, speaking about the Burnaby team.
“(They) have deployed through a small NGO not funded by the federal government in a volunteer capacity to try and make an impact at that scale. The team we have is entirely different. We have a highly functional team that carries things like water purification systems, (and) the ability to conduct technical searches was highly specialized equipment.”
Mulcahy said the Vancouver team cannot deploy themselves, they have to do so through the appropriate government channels.