Montrealers of Turkish and Syrian origin are rallying to provide support to their loved ones and others affected by the devastating earthquakes Monday.
Some, like Selim Sari say time is critical as hundreds of thousands have been left homeless, many still trapped under rubble.
Six members of his family lost their lives and are among the more than 7,000 people dead in both Turkey and Syria, following a 7.8 magnitude tremor and another of almost equal strength.
“It’s unfortunate because it happened middle of the night and the weather is not good,” he said, adding that temperatures at night can drop to well below zero.
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Many Turkish Montrealers are now rushing to package relief supplies.
Among them is Gerda Banna from Scanderoon in Turkey’s Hatay province, another of the severely affected areas.
“I have my cousins, I have my family,” she told Global News while helping to pack boxes at a warehouse in the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux (DDO).
“We were all scared we trying to reach them and we couldn’t because the phones wouldn’t work.”
She spoke to them Tuesday morning and said they lost their homes, but while some are living in their cars, at least they’re unhurt.
Now she worries about those not so lucky.
“People are still under the rubble,” she pointed out. “(Rescuers) are not able to reach them and you can hear them.”
That’s why Sencer Yöndem, consul general of Turkey in Montreal, stressed the urgent need for rescue teams.
“Urban search and rescue teams,” he explained, “and this is what we ask for from the (NATO) allied countries and also Canada.”
In the meantime, Montrealers are dropping off loads of supplies at a warehouse in DDO, including boots, winter clothes, sleeping bags medical supplies — all of which the volunteers say are urgently needed.
Syrian Montrealers, too, are doing what they can, but say that the civil war poses a big challenge.
“That there are sanctions on Syria at this point which makes sending money to Syria in an organized fashion very difficult,” explained Nabil Beitinjaneh, Syrian Cultural Centre president.
He’s asking Canada to temporarily lift some sanctions.
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The Canadian government says it is ready to send help to the region and that the needs are being assessed to have personnel on the ground.
For now, people in Montreal are doing what they can. The first flight packed with aid supplies leaves for Turkey from Trudeau airport Wednesday night via Turkish Airlines.
The Red Cross is accepting donations specifically for Turkey and Syria earthquake relief.
Donations for Turkey can be dropped off at the warehouse located at 79b Brunswick Blvd. in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
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