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Burnaby firefighters fly home after aiding Turkey earthquake relief operations

Rescue operations are underway after 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6.
Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team was deployed to Turkey to help with rescue efforts after the devastating earthquake that shook the region on Feb. 6.

The Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue Team is coming home from Turkey tomorrow (Feb. 14).

The team was deployed to Turkey last week. The 10-member independent search and rescue operations team, previously involved in rescue efforts during the hurricane in Bahamas and earthquake in Nepal, was deployed to Turkey’s earthquake zone on Feb. 7 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6.

Large international rescue teams were deployed in the area to help locate and rescue people who'd been trapped in the earthquake rubble in southern Turkey and northern Syria. Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue Team (BUSAR) was among the response teams racing against time as death tolls increased.

Rescuers race against time as death toll rises past 30,000

“It is a race against time — in the frigid cold.”

This is how Taylan Tokmak, Turkey's consul general in Vancouver, initially described the rescue operations in Turkey. 

The death toll has risen to 31,643 in Turkey, according to the Turkish government press release (as of this publication on Feb. 13).

As the operation in Adiyaman, Turkey, is transitioning from rescue to recovery, some international teams have stood down and suspended operations, citing security concerns — including the Burnaby group.



A post shared by Burnaby USAR (@burnaby_usar)

On Thursday, Feb. 9, the BUSAR team arrived at Adiyaman to begin their rescue operations,  bringing with them tents and special equipment like seismic devices, search cameras, coring equipment, hand tools and water filtration units.

The Burnaby-based team in Turkey was in constant communication with its partners in Vancouver, providing updates. A disaster assessment team consisting of military and Global Affairs officials was also deployed to Turkey by the Canadian government on Wednesday.

According to the update provided by the City of Burnaby, the Burnaby rescue team played a crucial role in rescuing a woman trapped in rubble for five days — assisting the Turkish team in tunnelling, shoring and cutting their access to the victim and removed her alive and conscious. Over 140 people were rescued alive from collapsed structures within five days of initial rescue operations in Adiyaman.

People were assumed to be trapped in every building, and priority was being given to those structures showing signs of life — like text messages from the rubble or sounds of victims inside. As of Feb. 13, Burnaby team worked with international teams to locate and remove deceased victims as signs of lives started waning due to extreme cold temperatures. 

Meanwhile, communities in Burnaby and Metro Vancouver have been contributing to the recovery of Turkey and Syria in their own ways — donation boxes have been set up in Lower Mainland for people to donate money towards the cause and a Turkish-owned pizza place in Burnaby-Coquitlam border is raising money to purchase and send supplies to Istanbul.

- With files from Canadian Press and Associated Press

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