‘They are absolutely devastated’: Winnipeg woman in Türkiye says continued help needed following earthquake

A Winnipeg woman now living in Türkiye is calling on Manitobans to help those affected by the massive 7.8 earthquake that devastated the nation and northern parts of Syria on Monday.

“They are absolutely devastated,” said Karen Patrick, who has been living in the Turkish coastal town of Urla for the past three years, “These are thousands of human beings who have seen their lives literally obliterated.”

Urla, in the province of İzmir, is roughly one thousand kilometres from the Hatay Province in southern Türkiye, where two powerful earthquake ravaged the region.

Despite the distance, Patrick says she could feel the earthquake hit in the early hours of Monday morning.

“Five days in and we’re seeing at least 22,000 dead,” said Patrick. “Now that operations are moving from rescue to recovery, that number is going to be a drop of water in a bucket.”

An aid distribution center in the İzmir Province of Turkey (Source: Karen Patrick)

Since Monday, Patrick has been purchasing items and supplies and dropping them off at aid distribution centres.

When speaking to an official at one distribution site, Patrick says she asked what items are most sorely needed. She said she was surprised to learn that pacifiers, not just food or clothing, are among the most needed of donations.

“I never would have thought of it,” she said, “But you have babies who are cold, who are hungry. They’re crying.”

Warm clothing, food and even pacifiers are needed in Turkey’s recovery efforts said Karen Patrick (Source: Karen Patrick)

A cold snap over Türkiye is adding to the already-extreme damage caused by the earthquakes. At this time of year, temperatures in Türkiye can go a few degrees below zero.

“But they’ve never experienced minus eighteen weather,” said Patrick, adding that the cold is a serious danger to those forced to sleep on the streets.

Rescue and recovery operations in Türkiye and Syria are ongoing, with a lack of drivable roads, fuel shortages and the state of war in Syria further complicating the delivery of aid.

With cities literally gutted, rebuilding the hardest-hit areas of Türkiye and Syria may take years, if not longer.

Patrick fears that, by then, most North Americans will have forgotten about the humanitarian aid that’s needed in the region, a fear she says is shared by the local populace.

“They feel like the West doesn’t care because it’s Türkiye, it’s Syria, those are the ‘bad’ places,” she said.

“I want people to understand that it may leave the news cycle but people have to keep talking about it. These are people’s lives. People have lost everything.”

For those in Canada willing to help recovery efforts in Türkiye and Syria, Patrick recommends monetary donations to accredited charitable donations. She advises against any food donations as some items may expire before they’re able to reach those in need.

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