Turkey-Syria earthquake: Milwaukee Syrians worry about family

Members of Milwaukee's Syrian community are concerned about their loved ones overseas after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, Feb. 6.

The earthquake killed more than 3,400 people and injured thousands more as it toppled thousands of buildings and trapped residents under mounds of rubble. Authorities feared the death toll would keep climbing as rescuers searched through tangles of metal and concrete for survivors in a region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and a refugee crisis.

Workers at Milwaukee Syrian restaurant Damascus Gate were emotional after the earthquake hit their home country.

Rajaa Abdallah's face was filled with worry with her family in Syria on her mind. Her co-worker, Marwan Alaboud, also concerned about family in Syria, helped translate.

"She can’t go to them to see them to make sure they’re safe," said Alaboud.  "Her brother and his wife. They don’t know nothing about them. They were in the house, and the house got destroyed. They don’t know what’s going on, if they’re still alive or not alive. They can’t find them. They are under the ground,  and the house is just on top of them."

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Abdallah shared videos of her damaged family home. The earthquake tossed concrete and left behind debris. The images took her breath away.

An aerial view of collapsed buildings as personnel and civilians conduct search and rescue operations in Idlib, Syria on Feb. 6, 2023. (Photo by Izzeddin Kasim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"When she saw them, she felt like she was going to die because she saw the pictures," said Alaboud.

At Damascus Gate, the unknown was hard to bear. 

"I haven’t talked to them because they don’t have Wi-Fi or internet," said Alaboud of her own family in Syria.

With thousands in Turkey and Syria dead, they said the aftermath is devastating to see.

An aerial view of a collapsed buildings as personnel and civilians conduct search and rescue operations in Cenderes district of Aleppo, Syria on Feb. 6, 2023. (Photo by Hisam Hac Omer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"He’s saying, ‘God, please help,’" said Alaboud.

They both said they hope the world steps up to support the people in Turkey and their home country.

"Syria really needs help," said Alaboud.

Residents search for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in the village of Besnaya in Syria's rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkey on Feb. 6, 2023. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADO