Ottawa will contribute $10 million to earthquake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria as part of an initial aid package, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, Sajjan said the federal government is looking at providing further aid and considering deploying the country’s disaster assistance response team to help with rescue operations and provide health services.
“We are conducting the needs assessment to look at what would be the next steps,” Sajjan said, adding that “nothing is off the table.”
The death toll of Monday’s earthquake has surpassed 6,200 and is expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue.
The powerful 7.8 magnitude quake, which was followed by strong aftershocks, has levelled thousands of buildings to the ground across southeastern Turkey and parts of neighbouring Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected, and he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces.
Sajjan said Canada’s initial aid package in response to international disasters is normally lower, but the amount is warranted given the magnitude of the earthquakes.
“Usually we start a little bit lower but given the magnitude, based on the feedback we were getting, we are actually going higher, once we have more (details) we will be able to move very quickly.”
Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, who also spoke with reporters after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, called the earthquakes an “absolute disaster,” which has “devastated” members of the Syrian community he has spoken with.
“We are watching very closely, and I should say, not only from an immigration of point of view, but also global affairs and international development, to figure out what the best response may be,” he said.
Turkish Canadians have also stepped in to raise funds and collect donations to send to their country of origin.
Baris Kafadar, the vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Turkish Associations, said the organization has set up a bank account to raise funds, and has set up locations where people can drop off non-monetary donations to be sent abroad.
“What is happening right now is we set up donation centres in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver where people come in, they donate clothing, non-perishable food, toys, safety equipment, sanitary stuff, anything we can basically send back to Turkey,” he said.
“Hopefully we can soon get enough money, find the right place to send the money to,” he said.