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The shock from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Turkey Sunday rippled across the Atlantic to some Queens residents, who grew increasingly worried about their homeland as the death count continued to rise.
Agabey Ozbey, who has been living in Elmhurst for only three weeks, grew up in a village near the border of Iran in the Van region of the country, where the quake was centered, he told TimesLedger Newspapers through a translator.
Ozbey still has many relatives in the village, called Yunkusak, who live in houses made of soil, which he said are susceptible to earthquakes.
Ozbey was surfing the Internet Sunday when he first heard about the quake and immediately picked up the phone and got in touch with his family, who were all alive and uninjured.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of dead hovered around 450 people, according to multiple news reports, and more than 1,500 were injured after the quake collapsed about 2,000 buildings in the far eastern region of the country.
Authorities in Turkey have instructed residents not to return to crumbled buildings, and many people have had to spend the night outdoors in close to freezing temperatures.
“It was heartbreaking news for his country, city, village and the people who reside there,” said Oguzhan Turan, who translated for Ozbey.
Turan is the vice president of the Queens branch of the Turkish Cultural Center in Sunnyside, at 43-49 45th St., which has been both collecting funds to send over to a sister organization in Turkey to aid in rescue efforts and helping individuals like Ozbey.
“Living abroad, being far away from his homeland, literally afflicted him with the news of the earthquake,” Turan said. “Hearing such news when he only has been away from his homeland about three weeks just added more sorrow.”
Ozbey lived in Istanbul before coming to the borough and hopes to get a master’s degree in business in America.
The cultural center, a nonprofit, seeks to promote understanding of Turkish Culture to the borough. The Turkish community largely lives in Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria and Long Island City, Turan said.
The center will be hosting a fund-raising event Friday that will feature authentic Turkish food and a craft sale, according to Ozbey.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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