Winnipeggers worried about loved ones in Turkey providing aid for those in earthquake zone

Feelings of shock and sadness still remain for members of Winnipeg’s Turkish community in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake, but they are finding ways to help those affected by the deadly disaster.

More than 7,000 people have died in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria following Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks that have resulted in thousands of buildings collapsing. 

That includes the house in the southeastern Turkish city of Adiyaman that Songul Bozat-Emre’s relatives called home. 

Bozat-Emre received word Monday that her niece and nephew in Adiyaman died. She’s since been told that her cousin and his wife are under the rubble following the earthquake, which struck not far east of the city.

She has other relatives who are also injured.

“They don’t have access to drinking water and the sanitation is getting worse. The hospitals are full of dead bodies,” Allan Emre, Bozat-Emre’s husband, said Tuesday.

“It’s very hard to transfer the people who had been recovered under the rubble.”

Emre spoke with his mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. He said the family in Turkey are trying to stay strong despite the circumstances.

Four people sit on a couch and look off camera.
Allan Emre, his wife Songul Bozat-Emre, and his brother Nametullah Emre watch their TV on Monday as the latest news unfolds on the earthquake that hit parts of Turkey. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Everyone in Adiyaman is now homeless, and the roads are covered in debris.

“It’s very challenging … they don’t have proper clothing,” Emre said. “It’s extremely hard and it’s cold.”

In an effort to help those struggling to survive in the aftermath of the earthquake, his sister-in-law Lisa Emre, started a GoFundMe campaign to help the people in southeastern Turkey.

People watch near a bulldozer as rescue workers try to reach trapped residents in a collapsed building in Kahta, southeastern Turkey, following an earthquake.
Rescue workers try to reach trapped residents in a collapsed building in Kahta, in southeastern Turkey on Monday. (The Associated Press)

She wants to provide assistance to as many people as possible, including extended family members.

“There is no shelter, there is no food, there is no clothes, there is no water. We don’t know when resources will be there,” Emre said.

“I know that several countries have stepped up, but we want to be able to make sure that we make a concentrated effort on the regions that might be overlooked slightly.

The Canadian government announced Tuesday it will be sending a $10-million earthquake aid package to Turkey and Syria.

Emre’s fundraising goal is $50,000.

“We have a city to rebuild and a lot of families to take care of, and the entire region is so many people,” she said. “I don’t know if $10,000 will be enough or $1,000,000. We don’t know. It’s just a starting point.

Her brother-in-law Allan Emre believes sending financial aid to Turkish residents is important.

“We’re going to try to actually send this money to people in the local [areas] direct,” he said.

LISTEN / A past Turkish earthquake survivor talks about how Manitobans can help:

Information Radio – MB9:39A past Turkish earthquake survivor talks about how we can help as Manitobans

In 1999, he survived one of the biggest earthquakes in Turkish history. Now Koray Goncu joined CBC’s Marcy Markusa to share his message of hope for everyone affected.

Manitoba’s Turkish society helping

Aykut Guney has also been in touch with extended family members back in southeastern Turkey.

Originally from Hatay, the southernmost area of the country, Gurney has been in Winnipeg for more than a decade and is a member of the Turkish Canadian Society of Manitoba.

The 28-year-old electrician has been hearing of the “pretty apocalyptic” travesties that hit southeastern Turkey.

“Body bags in front of hospitals, like thousands … and the videos coming out just blocks, like 80 per cent of a whole block demolished, flattened,” he said.”Once you see those it reminds you of a war-torn place.”

An aerial view shows collapsed buildings.
Aerial photo shows the destruction in the southern Turkish city of Hatay on Tuesday. (IHA/The Associated Press)

Guney’s dad is originally from Hatay, which is in the most southern part of the country, close to Syria, and he still has cousins and other distant relatives who live there.

“It’s a struggle to get anything else from them because all the lines are busy, infrastructure is down. From what I can gather from the people I can actually speak to, they’re saying it’s pretty bad, and they need all the help they can get,” he said.

“It’s definitely shocking and kind of feels unrealistic. Part of your brain is in a denial state.”

Like the Emres, Guney is trying to help raise funds for those affected by the deadly earthquake.

“I feel like that’s only meaningful thing I can do from here,” he said.

Isil Colakoglu’s is also keeping tabs on family in Turkey, and she too is gathering supplies to send to the earthquake zone.

Colakoglu, also a member of Manitoba’s Turkish society, has family who live in the eastern part of the country, near Kahramanmaras.

She was sleeping Sunday night when her husband woke her to tell her of the earthquake.

“It affects us mentally. So when I heard this, I shaked. I started to cry. I asked, is there anyone dead?” Colakoglu said.

Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble.
Rescue workers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Malatya, Turkey. Search teams and aid are pouring into Turkey and Syria as rescuers dig through the remains of buildings flattened by the earthquake. (Emrah Gurel/The Associated Press)

She is trying to keep in touch with friends back in Turkey, but admits it’s not been easy.

“I’m happy about them. They are survived,” Colakoglu said. “But I’m very, very sorry, very sad about other people who died or who are under [rubbble].

The Turkish Canadian Society of Manitoba is also working with the consul general in Toronto, trying to find more ways to support the country in the aftermath of the earthquake.