Montreal residents rush to raise funds for Turkey and Syria as quake death toll soars
As the death toll from Monday’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria continues to rise, people in the Montreal area are gathering to help those in need.
Among them is Baris Baydar, who borrows his truck to help fundraise here, but wishes he could go there to rescue people from the rubble and help the injured and homeless.
“I’m very sad,” said Bayder. “Unfortunately, that’s the best we can do at the moment.”
Bayder said his family is in Istanbul and safe. He said he personally doesn’t know anyone who is missing, but he still worries for all those who are suffering.
Hoping to find survivors, rescue teams in Turkey and Syria on Wednesday were still searching for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings collapsed by the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade.
The death toll in the 7.8-magnitude quake was nearing 12,000 as Bayder helped load donations into his truck, and he said he plans to volunteer for as long as needed.
“There are still many people under these buildings and there are some villages they haven’t reached yet,” said Gokhan Kurtoglu, head of Turquebec, a Turkish cultural association in Montreal.
He said organizers had contacted airlines flying to Istanbul to find out how goods could be shipped, using all available cargo space. The first flight took off on Wednesday, with more planned for Friday and Sunday – each plane is loaded with as much as it can send.
Turquebec will collect donations for as long as necessary. Volunteers work eight to ten hours a day, collecting donations and arranging for them to be flown overseas. Along with warm clothing, Kurtoglu said, they are sending toiletries and non-perishable groceries.
Kurtoglu said the organization is still working to understand what donations are needed. In addition to medical care, it can also be more food. Community leaders and volunteers are coordinating efforts not just in Quebec but across Canada — they’re setting up collection centers in different locations so Canadians can donate.
The people over there need help, he said, and he encourages everyone to help.
“There are no services. There is no petrol and there is water shortage. It’s terrible and we feel very bad here,” Kurtoglu said.
“It’s very painful. The death toll is increasing.”
International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan announced this week that the German government will provide an initial $10 million in aid to Turkey and Syria after the earthquake.
give as much as possible
Cesur Celik, a Montrealer from Turkey, brought a crowd of coats, socks and children’s clothing as a donation, along with gloves and hats to support Turquebec’s collection efforts.
“The people affected are not limited to those under the rubble,” Celik said, noting that 10 cities — some also with snow and rain — were affected by the earthquake.
“All these people are homeless now. They have nowhere to go.”
Dilek Aydincioglu helped. She said the first donation box she opened was full of baby clothes.
“I started crying, of course,” she said. “It’s emotional.”
Aydincioglu hopes some of these items will also make it to Syria. She said it’s not the first time she’s been helping with earthquake relief. She was in Istanbul in 1999 and, she said, knows firsthand how troubling it can be when she’s been there to help.
“There are no limits for me,” she said. “We are here to help people as best we can. And we get lots and lots of help from our Canadian friends. We appreciate that. It is a humanitarian situation.”
To inquire about donations, contact Turquebec through the organization’s website.