Utah woman raises funds for family in Turkey, Syria after earthquake

Feb 24, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: Oct 19, 2023, 12:52 pm

When Nour Bilal first heard that there was an earthquake in Syria, she could barely believe it. She...

FEBRUARY 23: The living rooms are seen through a heavily damaged building on February 23, 2023 in Samandag, Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday February 6, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and were felt in nearby countries. (Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images)

(Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — When Nour Bilal first heard that there was an earthquake in Syria, she could barely believe it. She questioned just how serious it was.

“Are we going to go back to those memories of the people being pulled out of the rubble? You know, that kind of terrifying feeling?”

Bilal told KSL NewsRadio’s Hugo Rikard-Bell what it was like when the news broke.

“Yes, it was that terrifying — like, it just broke my heart. And I can’t do anything… I can’t just go there and help them pull people out,” she said.

Bilal grew up in Syria and came to Utah as a refugee in November of 2014. She works for the Catholic Community Services and has been personally raising money in Utah to send to Turkey and Syria.

She said she immediately reached out to her family hoping for some good news. The earthquake was centered in Northern Syria, which was good news, as most of her family lives in Damascus, farther away from the devastation.

The bad news was that a couple of her cousins who live in Turkey were much closer to the devastating earthquake.

“[It] was more terrifying for them because they lived in a city that was really close to the original city that had the earthquake,” she said. “They’re in the streets, they are not allowed to go back into their houses until the government says its safe.”

She said her cousin in Turkey eventually was able to go home. This cousin the began cooking for people, feeding some 1,500 people daily.

As for her uncle in Syria, he said many people were coming from Northern Syria to Damascus.

“They are pretty much homeless, like they have nowhere to go and people are opening their houses for them to stay in,” she said.

Bilal said the way she could help was to raise money to send to them, so she started gathering donations. In a short period of time, she was able to raise $2,500 to help provide food and shelter for the two countries.

“Without this damage, like if I’m sending $1,200 to just help in general without the earthquake happening, yeah I mean it can help. But with the damage that has been caused — it’s nothing,” she said.

In a short period of time, she was able to raise $2,500 to help provide food and shelter for the two countries.

Deep rifts and the landslide formed after the earthquake in the Set Road area on February 23, 2023 in Samandag, Turkey. (Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images) Heavily damaged buildings and the debrises of collapsed buildings block the streets on February 23, 2023 in Samandag, Turkey. (Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images) Deep rifts formed after the earthquake in the Set Road area on February 23, 2023 in Samandag, Turkey. (Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images)

She has heard about people going from the U.S. to Turkey to make donations.

“A lot of them are saying how crazy it is to see it in person rather than pictures. Once you’re there, you’re looking at it in your own eyes, it’s much more terrifying,” she said.

The latest update from the Associated Press reports 47,000 people killed in the earthquake have been recovered from the rubble.

“All I’m hearing right now is that people are still terrified. There are still people being pulled from under the rubble, which is insane to hear. It’s been over a week,” she said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Utah woman raises funds for family in Turkey, Syria after earthquake