'I feel helpless': Kurdish community worried about aid reaching quake survivors

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'I feel helpless': Kurdish community worried about aid reaching quake survivors

'I feel helpless': Kurdish community worried about aid reaching quake survivors

Kurdish people living in Ottawa say they feel helpless after seeing the devastation from a powerful earthquake that struck a mountainous region between Iraq and Iran.

The magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck 31 kilometres south of the Iraqi city of Halbja just before 10 p.m. Iran time Sunday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was followed by more than 120 aftershocks.

More than 400 people were killed in Iran and at least seven in Iraq, with another 7,460 injured between the two countries — the majority in Iran.

Dilan Rasool spoke with her family in both Baghdad and Sulaimaniya, a city around 100 kilometres from the earthquake's epicentre, where she said many older homes were reduced to rubble. Her family was uninjured, but not without a few close calls. Her frail and bedridden grandmother was almost hit with a falling block as the walls of her home crumbled around her.

She said her family stayed awake Sunday night as the aftershocks continued to rattle the region. 

While Rasool hopes to help raise money to send aid to the region, she also feels powerless living so far away.

"It's very frustrating ... I feel helpless because I'm in such a great country, I'm so blessed to be here in Canada but my cousins back home are the same age as me, with the same ambitions, the same passions," she said. "I wish I could do something tangible right now."

Keikavoos Soleymani came to Canada four years ago with his wife and daughter, leaving behind his family and friends in Iran. While most of his family is safe, one of his friends who lived near the badly damaged town of Sarpol-e-Zahab was killed. The town sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq and its hospital was badly damaged.

For him, it's difficult to be so far from his family and friends knowing how much they're suffering.

Concerns about aid reaching region

​There are many challenges to getting relief to those that need it most. Relations between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region are tense and there are fears aid could be blocked or just won't make it.​

People in the region need basic items like clean water, food, medicine, blankets and access to electricity, which were already in short supply before the earthquake struck, said Rasool, who is also president of the Carleton University branch of the United Youth for Kurdistan.

"It's all a matter of how do we get the money there and how do we know it's getting to the right places?" she said.

The Kurdistan region is already suffering a humanitarian crisis which was made all the worse by the earthquake, said Yusuf Celik, a member of Kurdish Association of Canada.

The association plans to hold a number of fundraisers in the coming weeks, but they still have concerns about aid reaching the people who need it most.

Many of the villages in the Kurdish region of Iran don't have proper road access, and Celik said he's worried aid won't be accessible to many people.

He's hoping the Canadian government will not only send aid to the region but make sure it gets to the people who need it most.