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Vancouver’s Turkish community mobilizes to send emergency supplies to earthquake-stricken homeland


A passenger plane packed with donations and emergency supplies is set to travel from Vancouver, B.C., to Istanbul on Tuesday, as the death toll from Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkiye and Syria surpasses 6,200.

Taylan Tokmak, Vancouver’s Turkish consul general, joined volunteers at the Mavi Jeans warehouse at 580 Industrial Ave. Monday night, where more than 400 boxes and 12 pallets were prepared for the first of several planned Turkish Airlines flights for this emergency mission.

He says the airline, which launched non-stop flights between Vancouver and Istanbul back in May 2021, is delivering the donated goods at no cost, with a goal of sending new shipments every two days.

“Right now it’s snowing in that part of Turkiye, so it’s a race against time,” Tokmak told CTV News at the warehouse Monday night, hours after he attended the throne speech at B.C.’s legislature.

While In Victoria, Tokmak says he spoke with Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management and climate readiness.

“The B.C. government is ready to help us. We reiterated our needs about humanitarian assistance for Turkiye. I also highlighted that Turkiye, for the last decade, has been the number one refugee destination in the world, and now this time it is us who is in deep need.”

Speaking to reporters after the throne speech, Ma confirmed the province has received requests for the support of B.C.’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue teams.

“We have a team in Vancouver, and in Burnaby and in Surrey. We are currently awaiting instructions from the federal government,” Ma said Monday.

On Tuesday, Ottawa announced plans to contribute $10 million to earthquake relief efforts in Turkiye and Syria as part of an initial aid package.


Cansoy Gurocak, a volunteer at the warehouse who moved from Turkiye to Vancouver in 2011, says the most important thing Canada can do for his home country is send search and rescue teams to the devastated south-east region.

“We have a hard time to reach the centre of the earthquake because the roads are destroyed,” Gurocak said of Turkish search and rescue efforts. He’s been in contact with his parents in Turkiye, and says the seniors have lost their home and are living in their car.

“They’re scared, they’re hopeless,” Gurocak told CTV News, adding he hasn’t heard from eight of his relatives, and expects some didn’t survive.

“Shelter is the most important thing, but rescue teams have to take responsibility and they try to save as many people as possible.”

Buket Donnelly, one of the organizers behind Vancouver’s volunteer effort, is also struggling to reach her loved ones back home.

“We have some people here working but their family is actually under the rubble, so it’s so difficult to work, but what else can we do?” Donnelly said. “In Turkiye it’s cold, snowing, raining—so they need any type of help, so we are trying to do our best.”

A Turksih café in Kitsilano, Simit Bakery, is hoping to organize a local fundraiser for earthquake recovery effots. In the meantime, they’ve supplied a list of reputable organizations people can donate to—including AFAD, AKUT and AHBAP.

“Our families, they are OK, but they are all living in outside in their cars,” owner Alper Tasdurmaz told CTV News.

According to the latest census data by Statistics Canada, Vancouver’s Turkish population is around 2,350. Top Stories

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