'I've stopped crying': B.C. woman who lost 6 family members in Turkiye earthquakes sets sights on how to help rebuild
When two earthquakes struck her hometown of Iskenderun, Turkiye earlier this week, Nural Sumbultepe wasn’t immediately alarmed.
“Earthquakes happen in Turkiye all the time, and my family was always safe prior to this. So I didn’t believe that they were in danger at first,” said Sumbultepe, who now lives in Vancouver and works as a teacher in neighbouring Richmond.
But she learned her brother-in-law had died immediately, and five other family members were trapped under the rubble. They did not survive the collapse. Sumbultepe’s brother and sister-in-law’s bodies are still in the wreckage, and the bodies of her nephew, his wife and their six-month-old baby have just been recovered.
“One of my brothers sent me a video of a cemetery site of freshly dug graves, and how they were burying three members of my family,” said Sumbultepe. “They are the pillars of my family, they hold my family together. Life will never be the same, physically, emotionally, socially.”
Sumbultepe is being forced to grieve from half a world away, and the scope of the tragedy is hard to imagine.
“Thousands of buildings collapsed in my hometown alone. And there are over 7,000 people confirmed dead in just my hometown,” she said. ”I just can’t grasp it from here. Here I am in my warm home, and people are bringing food every day to me, and I don’t want it. I mean thank you, but I just want to be able to do something.”
Sumbultepe says it's important for Canadians who have been impacted by the tragedy to tell their stories, to keep the world’s eyes on Turkiye and Syria. And she’s determined to help her surviving family in person. She plans to fly to Turkiye and attempt to get to her hometown this weekend.
“I am mainly going to be moral support for my niece and nephew who lost their mom and dad. And I’m like a mother to them,” she said.
Sumbultepe also wants to be involved in the rebuilding effort.
“I’ve stopped crying, now it’s time to help. And I want to help for many years to come. It’s my country, it’s my people. I love Turkiye just as much as I love Canada,” she said, adding search and rescue efforts need to continue as well.
“My poor nephew, his mom and dad were under the rubble for two days. My niece got there she said there is not one single soul. We can see our mother, we can see our family is right there. We need cranes, we need people we need professional help to dig out people under the rubble,” she said.
Sumbultepe is also encouraging Canadians to donate to reputable charities who are on the ground helping.
“I want to spread the word as much as I can,” she said. “We need a bigger global effort to rebuild the region obviously. And I hope in two, three weeks we don’t forget about this region. That’s what I’m scared of.”
CTV News has compiled a list of how Canadians can help which includes a list of registered charities. The federal government is matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross up to $10 million.
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