The Turkish-Canadian Society is calling for a change in the way Canada deploys rescue crews to international disasters after only one team deployed to Turkey after last week’s earthquake.
Sina Kutluay, a spokesperson for the group, said members were disheartened that the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team from British Columbia, which self-deployed last week, will remain the only Canadian crew in the quake zone. This comes after the Vancouver consulate said a deadline for others to participate had expired.
“Because of some formalities or some logistical issues, they couldn’t make it,” Kutluay said in an interview Sunday, referring to federally co-ordinated search crew deployments.
“It is not a normal situation (where you have time to) ask for permission. You have to go there and start digging and saving people. I think that needs to be revisited after this experience.”
The Burnaby search crew made headlines Friday after footage from the CBC showed members being thanked and embraced by Turkish colleagues on the scene, moments after a dust-covered woman was taken to an ambulance in the city of Adiyaman after being pulled from rubble.
The crew said in a Facebook post Saturday that it remains on the ground in the southeastern city, looking for other “victims still trapped in collapsed homes.”
Kutluay said the Turkish-Canadian Society is very grateful to the team for their work, noting that it demonstrates the benefits of a streamlined process that would allow more crews to deploy after a disaster.
“I’m sure they could have saved so many people still, because it’s been a week now and there are still children and people (being found) alive under the collapsed buildings.”
He said members of the society were attending their Annual General Meeting when the quake happened and that one of their first actions was to draft an e-mail to the Prime Minister and other Canadian politicians asking for search and rescue teams to be deployed quickly.
Canadian federal authorities did not give an official go-ahead to any rescue teams after Monday’s quake, which has killed many thousands, but have sent an assessment team and committed $10 million to relief efforts.
“This contribution will help support emergency medical services and provide shelter, food and other essential items,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement Saturday.
It said Canada will also match every donation made to the Canadian Red Cross for Turkey and Syria until Feb. 22, up to $10 million.
Kutluay said the society is now focused on helping co-ordinate donations and providing support to community members who have lost family or friends in the quake.
“We are now in the process of finding impacted students who are studying in Canada. We would like to find them, reach them and co-ordinate support for them in the coming days,” he said.
Kutluay also noted that many people were initially donating aid materials, including blankets, tents and food, as Turkish Airlines agreed to transport the goods for free. However, he said all of the storage warehouses are now full, so the society is advising people to instead support through financial donations.
“For now, funding is the most important,” he said. “This will not go away in a couple of weeks or months. It will be a really long support effort.”