Vietnamese in Turkey join hands to support earthquake victims

By Thanh Danh, Duc Trung    February 10, 2023 | 03:43 am PT
Vietnamese in Turkey join hands to support earthquake victims
Tremors that inflicted more suffering on a border area, already plagued by conflict, left people on the streets burning debris to try to stay warm as international aid began to arrive. Photo by AFP
The Vietnamese community in Turkey has initiated a drive to donate commodities and clothes to support the people of the country to survive the dreadful earthquake calamity.

"Living in Turkey for more than 15 years, I have never witnessed anything so horrific. I only want that the snow stops falling so that the rescue mission can be carried out smoothly," Kieu Hanh, a Vietnamese residing in Istanbul, northern Turkey, told VnExpress.

A major earthquake struck Turkey neighboring Syria on February 6, killing more than 21,000 people. Tens of thousands of people slipped into disrepair, hungry in the middle of a frigid winter.

"I'm still freezing in my own home, let alone the earthquake victims. I can't even imagine how earthquake victims must feel. That horrific footage alone must have shattered the hearts of everyone who saw it," she added.

The Vietnamese community in Turkey has responded by mobilizing its humanitarian impulse and spirit, searching for other countrymen who may be in need, and coordinating collective aid for local victims.

Hanh and the Vietnamese organization's liaison committee in Turkey worked around the clock to locate and confirm the safety of Vietnamese citizens in the disaster zone.

Nonetheless, tracking and messaging efforts are hampered by the widespread disruption of Internet and phone connectivity in the affected areas.

Doan The Hop, representative of the Vietnamese Association in Turkey, said that there are now about 200-300 Vietnamese living, studying and working in this country, but not many Vietnamese present in 10 regions affected by earthquakes.

The association has not heard any data on Vietnamese victims as of yet. However, there are still some instances in which direct communication with them is impossible.

In a press conference on the afternoon of February 9, Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Doan Khac Viet said that there was no information regarding Vietnamese people casualties in the earthquake in Turkey and that Vietnamese authorities would be ready to take steps to protect citizens if necessary.

Duong Nam Phuong visits a store in Istanbul to purchase warm clothing to bring to the earthquake-ravaged region on February 8, 2023. Photo courtesy of Phuong

Duong Nam Phuong purchases warm clothing at a store in Istanbul to send to the earthquake-ravaged regions on February 8, 2023. Photo courtesy of Phuong

In line with his efforts to contact compatriots, Duong Nam Phuong, 34, who administers a Vietnamese community site in Turkey, launched relief donations in the city of Istanbul, where he lives and works.

"As a Vietnam, I uphold the tradition and custom of caring for one another. Turkey, like many Asian countries, has a strong tradition of compassion and kindness, he said.

Since Phuong's wife is Turkish, he considers this nation his second home.

His group solicited donations from the Vietnamese community in Turkey, and they were able to collect around 700 items of children's clothing to send to areas hit by the natural catastrophe.

The city government of Istanbul organized numerous distribution centers for aid supplies and then distributed them to the affected localities.

Phuong delivers clothing and other supplies to the Istanbul distribution center on February 8, 2023. Video courtesy of Phuong

"At a time when this nation is facing significant hardships, the donations and support supplied by the Vietnamese community to disaster areas are a meaningful and beautiful gesture," Kieu Hanh said.

In the wake of recent natural disasters, Istanbul citizens have been lined up to donate food, clothing, and other items.

Truc Ly, a Vietnamese citizen who has been living and working in Istanbul for over a year, says that this admirable sense of community helps the country's population weather difficult times.

Kieu Hanh believes Turkey will bounce back and make a full recovery similar to the horrific Izmit earthquake of 1999, which claimed the lives of over 17,000.

She has lived in Turkey for nearly two decades and has noticed that Turks are hard workers who are meticulous in their approach to tasks and resilient in the face of adversity.

Hanh said that this is not Turkey's first experience with natural disasters, given the frequency with which earthquakes occur here.

"I believe that Turkey will emerge from this period of mourning in the same determined and hardworking manner as it has in the past, she said.

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