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Roseville retiree Hicri Koroglu marveled at the progress of his native Turkish province of Adiyaman on a visit two years ago.

"It was getting to be a very nice place to live in — modern buildings, lots of construction ... things were looking wonderful," recalled Koroglu, 82. "But we didn't know these buildings were constructed without too much concern for safety."

The Turkey-Syria earthquake that killed more than 20,000 people destroyed southern Turkey's province of Adiyaman and its capital by the same name. Koroglu's wife's nephew, and the nephew's wife, were in their fifth-story apartment when the earthquake struck. They were near the top of the building — the upper floor collapsed on them — and landed at the surface of the rubble when friends went looking for the couple and pulled them out. A huge concrete block had fallen on the nephew, causing internal bleeding.

"They are conscious, but it is pure luck and pure chance," Koroglu said.

He said there were dead bodies in the same hospital room as the nephew and the nephew's wife, and a relative came to move the couple, who are in their 40s, to a better facility.

"Many people that we talked to said the entire city is gone," said Koroglu. He echoed criticism from news reports blaming poor building construction for the many deaths.

Pinar Basgoze, president of the Turkish American Association of Minnesota, said that so far, she's heard that other families of the local Turkish American community are safe. The organization is having a fundraiser from 5-9 p.m. Friday at the Med Box Grill in Chanhassen to send money to Turkey. Donors can also drop off diapers, feminine hygiene products, children's fleece pajamas and baby formula and food at the restaurant through Sunday at 6 p.m.

"Bringing the community together is part of the healing right now. ... [People] are deeply, deeply devastated and they would like to come together to at least show some support," Basgoze said.

Koroglu immigrated to the U.S. in 1962 and is from the city of Kahta, where his family still resides. Several relatives' homes collapsed and they lost everything. He's heard about people sleeping in their cars even if their homes survived the earthquake because they fear the buildings could still fall. His brother's home — still standing — is surrounded by several acres of open land and he sent Koroglu photos of people camping there in vehicles.

"The weather is very cold right now. ... They are going through a miserable time," he said.

Koroglu recalled raising money to help when a massive earthquake hit Turkey in 1999. He voiced frustration that government leaders did not prepare for the next disaster and said the earthquake "has shown their incompetence" — it took them days to reach affected areas, he noted, and people were digging through rubble with their hands.

"Now with this earthquake, we find out they are not ready — they have not done anything," Koroglu said. "In a disaster people die, but you try to limit the damage."

He usually visits Turkey every year, and he and his wife, Nezahat Koroglu, had planned to return this spring.

Still, Koroglu believes his family has been lucky, given the high death toll.

"Though there has been a lot of loss of property and things, we feel very fortunate that we have not yet gotten the news of many, many deaths," he said. "Although my wife's nephew was almost dead, he is going to recover."