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Lebanon, Indiana, man caught in loss, devastation of earthquake in Turkey, Syria

LEBANON, Ind. (WISH) — An Indiana man on Tuesday was in Turkey trying to stay calm in the middle of all the loss and devastation from an earthquake he experienced a day earlier.

Rescuers are hoping to pull survivors from the rubble before they succumb to the cold after the earthquake tore through southern Turkey and war-ravaged northern Syria. The death toll had climbed above 7,700 on Wednesday morning and was expected to rise further.

Unsure when he’ll make it back, Mohamad Almolhem has connected to Migros Aid, which is based in Speedway.

Almolhem, from Lebanon, Indiana, is a Syrian native and an American citizen. He recently went back to the region to visit family. Some of them are among the thousands who’ve lost their lives.

“He’s mentally terrible, He’s saddened,” Almolhem said through an interpretation provided by his son.

Almolhem is originally from the region and went back to two weeks ago to see family and for a dental procedure, but the visit took a turn.

“He lost his auntie’s husband. He had four of his auntie’s children in the hospital injured, and four more that are under the ground right now, under the buildings. They are trying to dig them out.”

The Almolhem family escaped Aleppo, Syria, in 2011 and eventually resettled in Lebanon, Indiana. Since then, they have been connected with the Migros Aid. Joel Vestal is the founder.

Hearing about tragedy is hard, but it’s tougher knowing a member of the community is deep in it. “I was grieved because they’ve already gone through so much trauma through the years of war, and this happening was very disheartening,” Vestal said.

For five years, Migros Aid has offered support to immigrants and refugees, most recently, Ukrainians. Migros Aid now is taking steps to support people impacted by the earthquake.

“I was overwhelmed and my eyes, filled with tears.”

Almolhem says even though people are camped outside in the cold, he’s somewhat grateful to be there.

“I am very happy. I am very happy,” he said.

He’s brought coats and blankets for families with the money he brought for his dental procedure.

The earthquake is a sad turn in terms of the death toll, but he’s grateful to do something to help.

Migros Aid will have a community event to kick off fundraising efforts Thursday at the Westside Episcopal Community Center at 5625 W. 30th St. in Speedway.