'It's like the end of the world has come': Suburbanites await word on relatives in Turkey

Suburban families with relatives in Turkey are awaiting word on loved ones who live in areas affected by Monday's devastating earthquake, while their community rushes to launch a local relief effort.

Hoffman Estates resident Hasan Damar said his brother-in-law, Onurcan Turk, lives in an apartment building that collapsed in the southern province of Hatay. He and his wife, Aysun, believe he was in the building when the magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck early Monday.

"Right now he is in the rubble of that building," Damar said. "The situation is uncertain. We don't know anything. It is devastating."

Increasing their concerns is the "terrible" weather the region is experiencing.

"It is cold. It is raining. Hypothermia is a risk right now," Damar said.

He said he and his wife have sent messages but have not received a response.

The Mount Prospect-based Turkish American Society of Chicago is working to raise funds to help those affected through its sister organization, Embrace Relief. Money raised will be sent to AFAD, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, in Turkey.

"Currently, we're trying to raise funds within our community to send help, any sort of help, to southern Turkey," said Rana Yurtsever, the society's board president. "As of now, it's really just cash. That's what they said they need."

Yurtsever, who lives in Schaumburg, said she learned about the earthquake at 8 p.m. local time Sunday while at a gathering. Her family is concerned because her sister-in-law, Derya Tamal, lives in Gaziantep, near the epicenter of the earthquake.

"The building in which they live was OK, but everywhere else, she said, was in a horrible state," Yurtsever said. "They were just trying to get away as quickly as they could. And today we have been trying to reach them. But we can't because they have no connection."

Gas stations have collapsed, making traveling from the region difficult.

"They were trying to head to Ankara (the capital of Turkey), which is where my mother-in-law lives. But they have no gas, and we can't reach them right now. It's just a very scary situation," she said.

Her mother-in-law, Nazifa Tamal, is visiting in Schaumburg but plans to fly back to Ankara later this week.

"It's like the end of the world has come," Tamal said. "There is no electricity. And those who have been trying to help out are also becoming victims."

Hoffman Estates residents Hasan and Aysun Damar are trying to find information about Aysun's brother, Onurcan Turk, whose apartment building in the Hatay province of Turkey collapsed in the earthquake Monday. Courtesy of Hasan Damar
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