Heroes welcome to the BC Search and Rescue team returning from earthquake-ravaged Turkey

Akif Asilturk, 9, was among the many who greeted the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team upon arrival.  (Dan Burritt/CBC - photo credit)

Akif Asilturk, 9, was among the many who greeted the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team upon arrival. (Dan Burritt/CBC – photo credit)

Cheers and tears greeted the returning members of Burnaby’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, fresh from a harrowing attempt to save lives in Turkey following the devastating earthquakes.

A crowd of dozens, mostly made up of Turkish Canadians, greeted them at Vancouver International Airport Tuesday after the team spent a week helping the devastated nation.

“I’m here to thank them and say hello to them and to show them my appreciation as a proud Canadian,” said Yusuf Gorgec. “They went and tried to save … my home residents where I was born.”

Team member Shawn Mohammed said he and his colleagues were very impressed with the flood of thanks.

Dan Burritt/CBC

Dan Burritt/CBC

“Our mission since we hit the ground has focused on searching for viable victims and helping families reunite,” Mohammed said. “So it’s nice to see that they’re happy.”

The 10-strong Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue Team, made up mostly of first responders from the city’s fire department, flew to Turkey with the blessing of the country’s government.

The team was deployed days after the February 6 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed more than 35,000 people and leveled thousands of buildings.

Dan Burritt/CBC

Dan Burritt/CBC

“Such a highly qualified team”

Sean’s wife Christina Mohammed and their three children were present to greet him.

Christina said she’s not worried because “they’re part of such a highly qualified team and a lot of them have been deployed together before and you just trust that they’re safe, that they’re looking out for each other, and they’re there, to do a good job.

“It was hard not knowing where they were, but it was nice to see his face on TV as they rescued the lady,” she said, “resting comfortably” after her rescue.

Also with YVR on Tuesday was Nural Sümbültepe, a Richmond, BC teacher from Turkey who lost at least six immediate family members in the tragedy.

Dan Burritt/CBC

Dan Burritt/CBC

“I only think of the children who are locked up at home or in tents,” said Sümbültepe.

She said she really appreciates the team’s efforts and would be happy to invite them to speak in front of her class in the future.

Norm MacLeod, a White Rock Fire Brigade deputy chief who led the team in Turkey, said he was grateful to be back home after being surprised by the extent of the devastation.

MacLeod said his team honed its skills in Nepal in 2015, a “disaster in itself,” and said the devastation in Turkey was “much greater.”

The Canadian government pledged $10 million in aid shortly after the quakes, and fundraising campaigns for food, clothing and cash donations soon emerged in several Canadian cities.


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