UK’s Turkish and Syrian communities rush to help earthquake victims | Turkey-Syria earthquake 2023

Volunteer Huseyin Goren, who has family in the earthquake affected region

Dozens of volunteers are packing containers piled excessive on a north London industrial property, filling them with very important donations to be despatched to Gaziantep, the south-eastern province in Turkey devastated by the earthquake that hit within the early hours on Monday.

Huseyin Goran, 36, has been serving to for 3 days straight. “The primary two days I didn’t sleep and did as a lot as I may. I took a three-hour relaxation and carried on.”

Goran has misplaced quite a few cousins and kin. “About 90% of them have misplaced their properties,” he mentioned.

A few of his kin are nonetheless but to be discovered. “It’s at all times in your head, what are they doing underneath the rubble, are they alive, are they coping … You lose hope after time.”

The size of destruction has been immense. “Yesterday my uncle who escaped from the earthquake mentioned there’s nothing left of the entire metropolis. Every thing you recall and know will not be there anymore,” Goran mentioned.

Volunteer Huseyin Goren, who has family in the earthquake affected region
Volunteer Huseyin Goren, who has household within the earthquake-affected area. {Photograph}: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Turkey and north-west Syria has left over 21,000 lifeless and counting. By noon on Friday, an enchantment to assist the victims had raised £32.9m for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) fund, serving to 14 British charities reply to the catastrophe.

Loss and despair has been felt broadly throughout the Turkish-speaking group within the UK, which largely encompasses Turks and Kurds, amongst different ethnic teams. “There isn’t anybody who hasn’t been affected,” mentioned Ceren Ermeç, 50, the CEO of ABS Transport, a world transport firm that has facilitated the cargo of significant support and donations to Gaziantep.

Ermeç jumped into motion inside hours of the tragic information on Monday, contacting the Turkish consulate and Turkish Airways to see what she may do. By 3pm, she was instructed customs guidelines can be relaxed. “We introduced this to our prospects interesting for assist and donations immediately on social media,” she mentioned.

5 hours later, at about 8pm, there was over a mile of visitors approaching the warehouse crammed with individuals wanting to assist and drop off donations. By the top of the night time they’d acquired nearly two truckloads-worth of donated items. On Tuesday afternoon, inside 24 hours of placing out a name for assist, a airplane full of significant donations had landed in Turkey.

By Thursday morning, they’d six vehicles full of things to be despatched to Turkey. “I get goosebumps. I’m overwhelmed and honoured by the response we now have had,” mentioned Ermeç.

Ceren Ermec, chief executive of ABS Transport
Ceren Ermeç, chief government of ABS Transport. {Photograph}: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

Alongside Inexperienced Lanes in Haringey, north London, which is lined with Turkish eating places, bakeries and jewellers, vans full of donations pull out and in of the Turkish Cypriot Group Affiliation (TCCA) driveway. Within the again room, volunteers type by the plenty of garments, nappies and medicines dropped off by the local people.

Erim Metto, the CEO of the TCCA and , mentioned he was blown away by the help from the group. “After we got here in on Monday morning, we had a few luggage of donations exterior. Folks had been coming with luggage with out us even requesting donations. By the top of the day, donations crammed the room,” he mentioned.

“It’s a form of horror once you see people who find themselves a part of your group who’ve handed away,” he mentioned, “but it surely’s a tremendous story of humanity coming collectively. It’s not about race, it’s not about politics, it’s not about spiritual perception. Persons are seeing the struggling that’s taking place and no matter they’ll do, they do,” he mentioned.

Across the group hub, there’s a buzz of chatter. There’s a backlog of donations of roughly 150 tonnes, which they estimate will take seven days to clear.

Mehmet Ganidagli is a Metropolitan Police sergeant. He has household who stay in a small village in south-east Turkey, close to the Syrian border, about 12 miles (20km) from the epicentre of the earthquake. Lots of his buddies and kin are nonetheless lacking.

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“I should have made about 200 cellphone calls to cousins, uncles, and different kin. Most of them I may pay money for. A few of them I couldn’t. All those I may pay money for had been both fleeing or sitting in vehicles.” Within the final couple of days it has been tougher to make contact.

“What’s reassuring is that support from the federal government is attending to them,” he mentioned. “I spoke to relations in Turkey from my village and meals and clothes reached them right this moment.”

Baby clothes being sorted before being sent away
Child garments being sorted earlier than being despatched away. {Photograph}: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

The Syrian group is way much less quite a few and established within the UK in contrast with the Turkish-speaking group. A vigil to commemorate the lives misplaced in each Turkey and Syria was held in central London on Thursday night.

“It’s catastrophe upon catastrophe. Initially it was a political catastrophe and now it’s a pure catastrophe,” mentioned Ibrahim, 30, an engineer, who declined to provide his full identify. “We’re right here in solidarity with the Syrians and the Turks and everybody else within the area,” he mentioned.

Mouna Kahity, 39, a healthcare skilled and researcher mentioned her household, who stay in Hatay, the southernmost province of Turkey, which has been severely affected by the earthquake, have needed to evacuate their house.

“They survived any warfare crime you’ll be able to think about. They survived chemical assaults, they survived sieges and hunger. In 2018, they had been pressured to depart their very own house in Syria and arrived in Turkey. With this catastrophe they’re reliving that trauma which they’re nonetheless attempting to heal from.”

Kahity’s household have been residing in a caravan for the previous three days as temperatures dip under zero. “My mum instructed me they’ll’t deal with the chilly. They hadn’t eaten for 2 days however proper now they’re secure,” she mentioned.

In Syria, the brunt of the earthquake’s destruction was felt within the north-western area of the nation the place there isn’t any state management. This has severely hampered efforts to get support into the affected space.

Mazen Gharibah, 35, director of the British Syrian Consortium, a pro-democracy group, mentioned: “We’re asking the UK public to donate to first responders in Syria such because the White Helmets and write to their MPs. The UK authorities’s response has been shameful thus far. We’d like lifesaving support instantly, we’re working out of time..

For Ermeç, her donations shipments are solely the beginning. “What we’ve completed is nowhere close to sufficient,” she mentioned. “Please don’t neglect that is taking place, this isn’t going to go away. I’m not going to cease till these individuals are someplace respectable.”