NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Some of the largest communities of Turkish residents in the United States are in New York, and they spent Sunday desperately trying to contact family after a massive earthquake struck the country.

“No electricity, no telephone, also the airport, a lot of damage,” said Riza Aras, owner of “Istanbul Restaurant” in Sheepshead Bay.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reports

Aras is glued to his TV screen, watching what has happened in his homeland. Dozens of buildings turned to rubble, with many survivors trapped, and others forced to flee for their lives after a 7.2 earthquake struck in the eastern part of the country.

After trying to get through to his friends Sunday in Turkey, he finally just gave up.

“We’re still watching many buildings fell down. We feel very bad. We’re watching what’s going on there,” he told CBS 2’s Ann Mercogliano.

At least 138 people were killed in the quake.

Inside Masal Cafe in Brooklyn, Alper Demir keeps tabs on his phone for any news on the quake. Thankfully he says everyone he knows is okay, but still seeing part of his home country in shambles leaves him feeling hopeless.

“It is unbelievable, like the whole city almost collapsed,” he said. “Since we live here, it is so hard to us.
When you live overseas, anything happen in your hometown feeling so bad here.”

New Yorkers with ties to Turkey spent the day looking for updates and waiting for word from their friends and loved ones.

Chef Omar Gormes of Masal Cafe says he was living in Istanbul in 1999 when the last big quake hit. He wishes he could do more to help his relatives are back home in the quake zone.

“It’s not something that you can explain, you know, this feeling,” he said. “It seems like end of the world like buildings cracking next to you.”

“I wish I was there right now to help rescue people, but I don’t want to have that feeling again,” Gormes added.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement Sunday addressing the more than 10,000 people of Turkish descent in New York City, saying his “thoughts and prayers” are with those affected by the quake.

Bloomberg says people wishing to contribute to relief efforts can do so through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City by calling 311 or at the website

President Obama said the U.S. will help earthquake victims as much as it can.

Please leave a comment below…

Watch & Listen LIVE