‘My heart is bleeding’: Jacksonville residents with ties to Turkey, Syria devastated as earthquake death toll rises

More than 11,000 people are dead after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The death toll along the Turkish-Syrian border continues to climb as tens of thousands of rescuers scramble to save those in the rubble.

More than 11,000 people are dead after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced from the deadliest disaster the world has seen in more than a decade.

There is still hope for survivors in the rubble. Turkish rescuers pulled a 5-year-old girl out of a pile after she was trapped 42 hours. Sadly, there are countless more people search teams can’t get to.

As the unimaginable plays out, Jacksonville residents with ties to Turkey and Syria are devastated.

“My heart is bleeding. It’s really hard not to be there, not to be able to help as much as we can,” said Samet Kul.

News4JAX on Wednesday spoke with three Turkish Americans and two men who recently moved to the Jacksonville area from Syria. Their friends and family members are affected.

“I couldn’t sleep the past couple of days. I keep crying and running around and trying to do my best because, if I could fly there, I don’t know what to do,” said Burak Celebi. “I have family friends there, very, very close friends. I have just heard early morning that they all passed away, unfortunately.”

It will take years for people in the hardest-hit areas to rebuild.

Even with resources from around the globe, the men tell News4JAX those who did survive are forced to sleep in the streets with no heat, no electricity and no idea what they’ll do in the future.

“It’s cold. It’s snowing. It’s minus. They need food. They need drink. But how many days they’re not able to get anything?” Sel Buyuksarac said.

The group hopes people have compassion for those affected — and the world gives generously.

“They need everybody’s help. I know it’s 10,000 miles away from the United States, but I think it’s as a human, we need to care about everybody,” Buyuksarac said.

If you’d like to help, you need to be careful about which groups you donate to.

Here is a list of verified charities:

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.