Edmonton groups drum up support for earthquake victims in Turkey, Syria

“We’re heartbroken, and we’re a little frustrated, but it’s still heartwarming to see all the support,” said Sim Senol, president of the Turkish Canadian Society of Edmonton.

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Organizations in Edmonton are rallying with the international community to bring relief to earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.

Two major quakes struck southeast Turkey on Monday — the first with a magnitude of 7.8 near its southern border with Syria, and a second about 11 minutes later and farther north that registered at 7.5.

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As of Friday morning, the death toll in both countries rose to total 23,425 according to Turkish officials and the Syrian Observatory for Human rights, while about 80,000 have moved from the earthquake area and tens of thousands more are missing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the number of injured people in his country exceeds 77,000.

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The Turkish Canadian Society of Edmonton has been finding ways to help since the news broke, and both donors and volunteers have risen to the occasion with their generosity, president Sim Senol told Postmedia.

“We’re heartbroken, and we’re a little frustrated, but it’s still heartwarming to see all the support,” she said. “In these tough economic times, if people can find it in their hearts to donate, every penny will help.”

‘Everyone wants to do something’

The society, which serves as a cultural organization for Edmonton’s Turkish community, has been co-ordinating with the Turkish Consulate General in Vancouver to collect and ship supplies overseas.

Senol said the organization’s cultural centre at 15450 105 Ave. will be accepting donations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for at least the next week, and looking strictly for baby formula, women’s hygiene products, general grooming supplies such as toothpaste, diapers for infants and adults and sleeping bags that are either new or lightly used.

Edmonton’s Al-Rashid Mosque is also working to raise funds for relief, outreach Imam Sadique Pathan told Postmedia.

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“The magnitude of the earthquake is so tremendous, we’ll need more than one or two charities,” he said.

The Bank of America estimates rebuilding costs in Turkey will be between $3 billion and $5 billion.

“The severe destruction — it’s really brought people together,” Pathan said. “Everyone wants to do something.”

The Canadian government has committed to matching up to $10 million in donations to Red Cross Canada’s appeal for earthquake relief from Feb. 6 to Feb. 22, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has said it will provide $85 million in urgent humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria.

‘It’s a community effort’

The Turkish Canadian Society of Edmonton is also accepting cash donations at its cultural centre, and hosting cookouts prepared and delivered by members of the Turkish community.

The organization created an Instagram account under the handle @helpturkiyealberta that provides daily menu details, coordinates food deliveries, and offers information about online donations.

“I have so many community members that went through this trauma in 1999,” Senol said, referring to a similarly powerful quake in northwest Turkey that claimed more than 17,000 lives. “There are people in here that were pulled from under the rubble that time.”

More than just getting aid to victims, the local relief effort has created an outlet for Edmonton’s Turkish community; many have friends and relatives back home.

“It’s a community effort,” she said. “Rather than being at home, watching these news clips and getting depressed, they’re supporting each other.”

— With files from Reuters and Bloomberg

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