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Hero’s welcome for B.C. search-and-rescue team returning from quake-ravaged Turkey

Cheers and tears greeted returning members of Burnaby’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, fresh from a harrowing effort to save lives in Turkey after the devastating earthquakes.

A crowd of dozens, largely made up of Turkish Canadians, welcomed them at Vancouver International Airport Tuesday after the team spent a week aiding the shattered nation.

“I am here to thank them and welcome them and just to show my appreciation as a proud Canadian,” said Yusuf Gorgec. “They went and tried to rescue … my home people where I was born.”

Team member Shawn Mohammed said he and his colleagues were humbled by the outpouring of thanks.

Two men, one wearing a CANADA scarf, speak to a reporter in the airport while a sign reading "Welcome Home Our Heroes" is held in the background
Shawn Mohammed, left, and Ryan Berry were among the Urban Search and Rescue Team members greeted by the crowd, largely made up of Turkish Canadians. (Dan Burritt/CBC)

“Our mission from when we hit the ground was focused on looking for viable victims and helping families reunite,” Mohammed said. “So it’s nice to see that they’re happy.”

The 10-person Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team, comprised of mostly first responders from the city’s fire department, flew to Turkey with the blessing of the country’s government.

A man in a suit holds a Turkish flag, surrounded by a crowd of men mostly wearing clothes to work in. Another man holds a Canadian flag.
Turkey’s consul general in Vancouver, Taylan Tokmak, pictured with a blue tie in the middle, was among the dozens on hand to greet the returning 10-person crew, comprised of mostly first responders from the city’s fire department (Dan Burritt/CBC)

The death toll stands at 35,000 in Turkey, plus over 5,000 in Syria.

‘Such a highly skilled team’

Sean’s wife, Christina Mohammed and their three children were on hand to greet him.

Christina said she wasn’t worried because “they are part of such a highly skilled team and many of them had been deployed before together, and so you just trust that they’re safe, they’re taking care of each other, and they’re there to do good work.

“It was hard not knowing where they were, but it was nice to see his face on TV when they were rescuing the lady,” she said.The team said they picked a woman out of the rubble and she suffered minor kidney damage but is “resting comfortably” following her rescue.

Also at YVR Tuesday was Nural Sümbültepe, a Richmond, B.C., teacher from Turkey who has lost at least six immediate family members in the tragedy.

A man holds a Turkish flag and looks at his phone standing next to a woman holding her phone
Nural Sümbültepe, right, with a member of the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team. Sümbültepe, who lost at least six family members in the quake, says she’s deeply grateful for the team’s efforts. (Dan Burritt/CBC)

“All I’m thinking about is the children who are trapped at home or in tents,” Sümbültepe said.

She said she’s deeply grateful for the team’s efforts and would like to invite them to speak to her class in the future.

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