A British Columbia woman who lost nearly a dozen family members in the devastating earthquake in Turkey has returned to Vancouver after a trip to her hometown and says the region is in desperate need of aid.
Nural Sumbultepe lost 10 loved ones in the earthquake, including six immediate family members.
B.C. woman loses six family members in Turkey earthquake
“Six very dear to my heart that I see all the time when I get home and communicate with almost every week from Canada,” she said.
“Who am I going to mourn today? Every day I think about one of them in detail.
Sumbultepe returned to Canada from the disaster-stricken town of Iskenderun on Wednesday.
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While in Turkey, she toured the devastation, visited military sites, and provided as much help as she could to her family and anyone else she could help.
“I literally collapsed – my legs couldn’t hold me – when I saw the destruction,” she said, adding that she was on the ground for another terrifying earthquake while in the country.
“I had to visit a lot of graves, as you can imagine, and I supported my sister who lost very close immediate family members and my niece who needed help with her two children. I visited a lot of what we call tent cities, where people lived in containers and tents.
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As the death toll in Turkey and Syria tops 50,000, the monumental tragedy becomes a growing humanitarian crisis. Appeals for international assistance continue amid allegations of negligence and corruption against the governments of both countries.
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Sumbultepe said the trip to Turkey left her with many worries about the situation on the ground.
Efforts to provide aid like shelter and water to survivors have been slow, she said, and many people have been left without essentials. The military has been slow to respond and transparency is lacking on the billions of dollars raised for relief, she said.
“I still don’t understand why people are still homeless, why they still don’t have shelter, clean water and tents,” she said.
“What the world doesn’t know is that some people who were rescued froze to death.”
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Sumbultepe said there was growing anger over the government’s apparent failure to enforce anti-seismic safety codes implemented after the deadly 1999 Istanbul earthquake.
In Iskenderun, there have been fatal building collapses in six neighborhoods where, she says, construction should never have been allowed in the first place.
The 15-story building in which her sister-in-law lived and died also appears to have been built too tall for its location, contrary to code.
With an election scheduled for this spring, she said the government appears to be rushing to rebuild, without consulting seismologists, city planners and local leaders, raising fears of a repeat disaster in the future.
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Sumbultepe said she is deeply grateful for the financial support her fellow British Columbians have provided to those affected by the tragedy.
But she said Canada could do a lot more to help.
“I would really like to see Canada keep its promise… to rebuild and repair,” she said.
“And I would like to encourage the Canadian government to talk to the Turkish government about careful planning.”
Back in Vancouver, Sumbultepe said she was still heartbroken whenever she found herself alone. But she is already planning her next trip, hoping to return to support her family in a few weeks.
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