Skip to content

Rescue team faces hurdles getting to Turkey quake, days after B.C. offer to Ottawa

Vancouver rescue team is waiting on international accreditation from a UN-affiliated agency
Soldiers and local residents are set up a tent, in Aslanli, southeastern Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in a catastrophic earthquake huddled around campfires in the bitter cold and clamored for food and water Thursday, three days after the temblor hit Turkey and Syria. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

A British Columbia search and rescue team is ready and willing to head to Turkey to help after a devastating earthquake, but it’s facing multiple hurdles as it awaits approval from federal authorities.

Justin Mulcahy, spokesman for Vancouver’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team, says “there has been no official request” from Ottawa to deploy the team.

B.C.’s Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says the province reached out to Public Safety Canada on Monday morning, just hours after the quake, because such emergency assistance needs to be co-ordinated.

Ma says the province has since been in constant daily contact with Public Safety Canada but has “yet to receive direction.”

The minister says she can’t presume to know what conversations Global Affairs Canada is having with partners as she waits on a federal response.

Mulcahy says the Vancouver rescue team is also waiting on international accreditation from a UN-affiliated agency that would allow them to deploy on short notice.

“We’re working on that through this accreditation process so we can be in a position in the future to be able to immediately deploy our teams internationally,” Mulcahy said.

“Our focus has been on having these teams available for use locally, provincially and federally.”

The Vancouver Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team operates under the city’s fire department.

Taylan Tokmak, Turkey’s consul general in Vancouver, said Wednesday that a separate volunteer group, the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue Team, is already in the Turkish quake zone.

Ma says the Burnaby team “self-deployed” this week.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by several powerful aftershocks, ravaged parts of southeastern Turkey and northwest Syria, flattening buildings and killing many thousands of people.

RELATED: Heavy urban search-and-rescue team from B.C. ‘self-deploys’ to earthquake region

RELATED: Devastation in Turkey echoes past quakes and offers B.C. lessons: profs