L.A. Sends Aid, Puts Boots on the Ground in Turkey, Syria After 7.8 Quake

L.A. 1st responders have deployed and local groups are collecting donations for survivors of an earthquake that may have killed 180,000

Angelenos are doing what they can to support the international response to the devastation in Turkey and Syria after a  7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 12,000 and destroyed thousands of buildings on Monday.

The Los Angeles Turkish American Association (LATAA) has been collecting donations to provide to the Turkish Consulate.

“We are asking for monetary donations and… winter warm clothes, blankets, hand warmers, sleeping bags, and all sorts of medical supplies,” Nilay Nylund, the former president of the LATAA and current board member of the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California told LAMag. “I don’t remember anything like [this] before… I’m urging everyone to please donate.”

Volunteers of the Los Angeles Turkish American Association help pack donations to be shipped to Turkey. (Credit: LATAA)

Los Angeles Turkish American Association

Recent reports have shown that the death toll has risen above 12,000 but is expected to continue to grow. The Economist tweeted that, according to one expert, 180,000 people could still be trapped, most of them dead.

The LATAA is working with Bakkal, an ethnic, L.A.-based grocery delivery service, to help transport donations to the consulate. Murat Karslioglu, the CEO of Bakkal, says he’s shifted the business’ focus to the aid effort. “We have logistic power, we have delivery vehicles and trucks and vans that we used to use for grocery deliveries,” Karslioglu said. “Now, with the increasing demand [because] people cannot drop off their donations, we made it easier.”

The local company Bakkal is helping transport donations (Credit: LATAA)

Los Angeles Turkish American Association

Karslioglu says he was recently notified that the Stanford School of Medicine would be donating medications to the cause, which his business will transport.

“I was in the 1999 Izmit (Turkey) earthquake,” he said. “I was lucky to survive it… the immediate help is important, [but] this will continue more than a year because it’s devastating. People lost their homes and people lost their income.”

A donation pick-up form can be found here and donations can be brought to the Turkish Consulate of Los Angeles located at 8500 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 900 in Beverly Hills.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department has also sent support. A team of 78 firefighters, physicians, and rescue specialists was deployed to the region along with a team from Virginia. Fire Captain Shiela Kelliher Berkoh told LAMag that people have reached out asking to help—she says the best way, which is also recommended by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is monetary donations to reputable organizations. A list can be found here.

The seismic event was so powerful that a shopping mall in Diyabakir, Turkey almost 200 miles from the epicenter collapsed.

And while the international response to the devastation in Turkey has been strong with over 70 nations pledging their support, Syria, torn by civil war, has seen delays due to sanctions and a damaged border crossing. The European Union recently announced that despite sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it is working with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to transport aid into Syria, regardless of whether the area is government or opposition-controlled, the New York Times reports.

The Syrian Embassy in the U.S. is closed, but Syrians in Los Angeles are determined to help their own, anyway they can.

Raffy Ghadanian, who owns the Syrian restaurant Kebab Halebi, and his cousin, Lena Ghadanian Artunian, have been collecting money to send to their family members in Aleppo. “The buildings are not safe to go in because there are cracks in the building,” Artunian said. “They don’t know if it’s going to stay up or not because of the aftershocks. Everyone is scared. They’re just living out of their cars.”

Artunian explained that because of the civil war that has been raging since 2011, resources are scarce and there’s no direct way to send money to their family. Instead, they are sending it to their cousins in Armenia who are hoping to hand deliver it.

“They were already struggling,” she said. “And now this happened. It’s beyond devastating.”

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign for our newsletters today