SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — More than 6,000 people were killed in Turkey and Syria in a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. A desperate search-and-rescue effort is now underway for survivors trapped beneath the rubble of thousands of buildings, but the weather is now hampering the search.

Ahmet Emre, who lives in Sandy, has family back in Turkey and said that when he first heard about the earthquake, his first thought was to call his loved ones nearly 7,000 miles away and make sure they were okay.

“The first emotion was, ‘what if something happened and how can I help?’ and that fear of not being able to help went through my mind,” he said.

He said that his brother lives near the epicenter of the earthquake in Gaziantep, and he has other family that lives in Adana — both of which have seen massive amounts of damage from the disaster.

“They are saying like horrible, you cannot imagine, they could never imagine what they have been seeing right now,” he said. “They saw a building just collapse and becoming an ash cloud.”

When a close friend called Emre to tell him what happened, his heart dropped.

“He called and said Ahmet, near your family there is a huge earthquake.”

Emre immediately called his family and said he was grateful to learn they were okay, but they’re now sleeping in their cars, waiting until it’s safe to go back to their homes.

He’s worried about distant relatives and friends, especially in his hometown of Besni, that he still hasn’t heard from. He said that the harsh winter conditions in Turkey and broken roads are making search-and-rescue efforts difficult.

“It’s more than one, it’s many tragedies happening all at once,” he said. “I would like Utahns to keep and pray for Turkey and surrounding countries, Syria too and for all the people that are affected.”

Emre is a part of the Utah Turkish American Community, which is asking for relief efforts to help those impacted by the earthquake.

They sent a statement that says:

The victims of the earthquake in Türkiye urgently need your help for their recovery from this catastrophe. Harsh winter conditions and temperatures close to freezing overnight are making the rescue efforts even more difficult. UTAA is asking its members, Utahns, and all friends of Türkiye to contribute to the recovery and rebuilding efforts by sending donations through the links below:

BTF – Bridge to Turkey Fund

Turkish Philanthropy Funds

ETAC USA – Turkey Earthquake Relief Fund

AKUT – Search and Rescue Association

AFAD – Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency

AHBAP Platform

UTAA conveys its deepest condolences to all the victims and their families, and hopes that those who were injured recover as soon as possible. For more information please contact us at