Like the rest of Tameside, I have been horrified by the devastation in Syria and Turkey following the earthquake last week.
As we keep those who have lost their lives in our thoughts and prayers, I also wish to send my profound condolences to the Turkish community in Tameside, who are experiencing unimaginable heartache, anxiety and grief as the scale of the crisis unfolds.
Over 36,000 people have lost their lives so far, with many more beneath rubble or unaccounted for. It is difficult to comprehend destruction on this level, to imagine the thousands upon thousands of lives lost, the millions displaced or affected, the families torn apart.
Amongst the desolation, there has been moments of hope. On Saturday, a new-born baby and his mother were rescued after spending more than four days buried beneath rubble, a testament to the incredible efforts of search and rescue teams working around the clock to find survivors.
Over the weekend, I was incredibly proud to read of the Greater Manchester firefighters who have travellers to Turkey to help with the humanitarian effort on the ground. Four members of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service flew out the day after the earthquake hit and have been lending their considerable expertise and specialist equipment to the rescue operation.
I have also been inspired by the actions of local charities in Tameside, who have stepped-up to raise money and collect donations for Turkey and Syria. Action Together, which operates in Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside, has collated various appeals on their website (www.actiontogether.org.uk/earthquake-turkey-syria) along with links and points of donation.
If you are in a position to be able to donate, I know it would make a huge difference. If you want to help but aren’t able to donate in the current financial climate, the North West Turkish Community Association are arranging appeals and collections of essential items to be delivered to Turkey. So, if you have clothes that you no longer need or items such as sleeping bags, tents or blankets, do get in touch with the Association on their Facebook page.
I have no doubt that over the next weeks, months and years, the people of Tameside will continue to support those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. We may be separated by many miles, but we stand alongside those in Turkey and Syria, and will help in whatever way we can.