A New York City family was visiting relatives in Turkey when they were killed by Monday’s deadly earthquake.
Salma Salazar told CNN her family is heartbroken with the loss of her sister, her brother-in-law and two nephews ages one and two. She had to come to terms with the tragedy and accept that she could not get to Turkey to grieve as the country still deals with the disaster, making impacted areas hard to access.
“We’re all very broken in my family. And me and my sister — our hearts are broken,” she told CNN, saying her sister was “very lovable. She was very passionate about everything that she did, and she certainly put everyone’s needs above her own.”
CNN reported Thursday that Burak Firik, a former board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations New York Chapter (CAIR-NY), was killed along with his wife Kimberly and their sons Hamza and Bilal, CAIR-NY Legal Director Ahmed M. Mohamed told CNN.
The family was in an apartment building in the Kahramanmaras region, the epicenter of deadly earthquake, according to Mohammed, and the apartment building collapsed during the earthquake. Mohamed said he’d known Firik since 2019 and had last talked to him a few months ago before he went to Turkey to be with his father, who was having open-heart surgery.
“He was very selfless. He was extremely intelligent. And all he wanted to do was help. Help the community,” Salazar told CNN about her brother-in-law.
Salazar said the only surviving member was her brother-in-law’s father, who watched their building collapse in front of his eyes.
“He spent over 12 hours digging, and just finding people to help him dig, because the machines weren’t able to go in,” Salazar told CNN.
Salazar appealed for help as rescue efforts continue.
“I want people to know that this is a big problem right now in Turkey and in Syria. And although I lost my family, there are currently still people under there. There are children,” she said, adding that the death toll is rising. “This is really difficult to see this.”
CNN’s David Williams and Gloria Pazmino contributed reporting to this post.