WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As search and rescue efforts continue in Turkey and Syria following a devastating 7.8 earthquake, several Wichitans from both countries are carefully monitoring the situation.

Some, like Dr. Bayram Yildirim, have received heartbreaking news from home.

Dr. Yildirim has called Wichita home and has worked at Wichita State University (WSU) for more than 21 years. The Professor in Engineering was born in Turkey, where most of his immediate family still lives. Dr. Yildirim says around 8 p.m. Sunday night. He started receiving messages from his siblings in Turkey.

“We have lost several of our family in my town or in other towns,” Dr. Yildirim said.

The professor says several buildings in his hometown (roughly 200 miles away from the first earthquake’s epicenter) have been reduced to rubble.

“My family chose to stay at one of my sibling’s house,” Dr. Yildirim said. “I mean, it is, again, an apartment building, not optimal—the only reason that they did because it still had heat.”

It wasn’t long after Dr. Yildirim learned of this that he received another heartbreaking phone call.

“A cousin of ours, the building that he was living in, which is an 11-story building, it was rubble,” Dr. Yildirim said.

The professor’s cousin and six of his cousin’s seven children (ages 9-25) are now feared dead.

“Nobody in his family is responding to their phones, and they were on the first floor of an 11-floor building,” Dr. Yildirim said.

His cousin’s remaining child wasn’t home when the first earthquake struck.

“He’s the only survivor out of his family,” Dr. Yildirim said. “A few of the relatives who live in the same town and they went and tried to help for search and recovery effort for the whole day, but it looks like the search and recovery effort on that building is over. I mean, they don’t think that there is anybody who has survived.”

The professor is now asking for prayers for everyone impacted by the natural disaster.

“We saw that how Kansas helped Andover victims,” Dr. Yildirim said. “Hopefully, we will able to help the victims of this earthquake in Turkey from a very long distance as well.”

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