New Orleans-area relatives worry about family affected by Turkey-Syria earthquake

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 8:17 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the death toll from Monday’s powerful earthquake climbs toward 8,000, local Turkish- and Syrian-Americans are watching heartbreaking images from their countries with deep concern.

“It is cold, it is snowing. And the aid cannot get there fast enough, unfortunately, because of the weather conditions,” said Salih Gurbuz, a native of Turkey now living and working in the New Orleans area.

Gurbuz said members of his immediate family were impacted by the quake.

“My mother, actually, happened to be in one of the cities when the earthquake happened, visiting my sister,” he said. “They were fortunate enough to get out of the building before the building was collapsed.”

But the fate of another relative is unknown.

“Unfortunately, one of our cousins is still under the rubble,” said Gurbuz. “So, there’s still no news from here. And with this being so close to this, it is pretty devastating for us. It’s devastating for everyone.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) told Fox 8 the United States needs to send aid to those affected by the catastrophe.

“We should support Turkey as much as possible,” Cassidy said. “It is the right thing to do, it is the humanitarian thing to do, and it also helps that Turkey is a NATO ally.”

Jenny Yanez, area manager in Louisiana for the Islamic Circle of North America Relief, said she hopes international sanctions won’t stand in the way of sending help into Syria, as well.

“We work with refugees and Syrian refugees, particularly in this area -- Metairie and Kenner -- and they were here because there was a humanitarian crisis in Syria which is still ongoing,” Yanez said. “The sanctions imposed on them, they have one hour of electricity a day. Their hospitals were overfilled before this happened. And, currently, it’s very, very cold.

“Imagine that not just yourself, but it’s your children and your parents, that are being crushed. And the bystanders, people are watching, and there’s nothing they can do. And if that doesn’t touch everybody’s heart as a human ... I know that many countries of the world have said that they want to help Turkey, but they don’t want to help Syria. What is the difference between those borders and the lives of those babies?”

Cassidy said, “There’s a lot of Turkish-Americans that live in our state and in our country that make such incredible contributions. It’s freezing over there, and there may be another 15,000 trapped between rubble. We can remember when Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes hit our state and international outpouring of support.”

Gurbuz said he’s thankful his mother is back at her home.

“My brother actually had to drive 12 hours to take my mother and my sister and her family back to my mom’s homeland,” he said.

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