Diaspora Turks and their supporters have held a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC to honour the victims of deadly earthquakes in Türkiye.
A group gathered in Lafayette Square next to the White House on Friday to mourn the victims of the massive earthquakes that killed at least 20,318 and injured more than 80,000.
The vigil was organized by the American Turkish Association of DC (ATA-DC) and was attended not only by Turkish Americans but Americans who want to show solidarity with those affected by the earthquakes.
A minute of silence was observed to honour the victims as attendees later expressed their feelings and sadness regarding the earthquake –– described by many as “the disaster of the century.”
ATA-DC President Sitki Kazanci told Anadolu Agency that the group has been collecting aid materials and donations for the victims.
“This is the least we can do. Everyone abroad is doing their best here,” he said.
He said everyone was “extremely emotional” at the vigil.
“One thing that makes us happy is that we are all together,” he said.“We support our country.”
American Kenneth Joholske, said he was “deeply moved” because he was part of the Turkish community in Washington DC.
He noted that he is involved with ATA-DC relief effort and said the aim of the vigil was to ”spread awareness” as well as community solidarity.
Turkish student in Washington DC, Melike Bolukbasi, attended and said that she has been helping fundraising efforts at the Turkish Embassy.
“It really touched my heart that we gathered here today like this,” she said.
Ceyda Ozoglan, a Turkish-American, said attending the vigil was necessary to fulfil the duty of being human.
“The pain is huge,” she said. “Thousands of people are still under ruins right now. I guess what we’re doing here is just to feel ourselves there.”
Recalling the 1999 Marmara earthquake which killed more than 17,000 people, she said: “We must be tired of learning lessons from them (earthquakes) every time.”
The 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes, centred in the Kahramanmaras province, affected more than 13 million people across 10 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa.
Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the strong tremors that struck Türkiye in the space of less than 10 hours.
The death toll in Syria late on Friday climbed to 3,553.