A volunteer search and rescue team from Burnaby, British Columbia, that self-deployed to the earthquake zone in Turkey has returned to Vancouver to a hero’s welcome after spending days combing through the rubble as part of the international lifesaving efforts. The 10-person team, mostly comprised of first responders from the city’s fire department, flew to Turkey with the blessing of the country’s government.
Upon arriving in Vancouver on a flight from Istanbul, the team was met with a large group from Vancouver’s Turkish community waving Canadian and Turkish flags, who broke out into applause and chants of “welcome home USAR” as they emerged from the arrivals gate. Norm MacLeod, a deputy chief with the White Rock Fire Department who led the team in Turkey, said he was grateful to be home after being surprised by the scale of the devastation. He stated that the destruction in Turkey was much larger in scale than what he had experienced in Nepal in 2015.
Christina Mohammed and her three children anxiously awaited her husband Shawn, a Burnaby firefighter and member of the team, to return after a week away. She said she wasn’t worried because they were part of such a highly skilled team and many of them had been deployed before together. She was pleased to see his face on TV when they were rescuing a woman who suffered minor kidney damage but is now “resting comfortably.”
The Canadian government pledged $10 million in aid soon after the quakes, and collection campaigns for food, clothing, and monetary donations soon popped up in multiple Canadian cities. Taylan Tokmak, Turkey’s Consul General in Vancouver, said the quake has united Canada’s Turkish community that may feel a sense of survivor’s remorse being so far away from the disaster. He was surprised to hear from the Burnaby USAR team, who called him early Monday morning last week with an offer of help, arranging a flight the next day. He said that the team saved one of their citizens, which made them all very proud. Now, the country must focus on organizing relief efforts and future reconstruction plans.