BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Western New Yorkers with family and friends in Turkey are keeping a close eye on the situation. Buffalo State University professor Barish Ali is originally from Cyprus and still has family there. He also has friends and Colleagues who live in Turkey and says everyone is shaken up over this.

“Earthquakes do happen often in that area. Every now and then they’re terrible like the one from Monday morning,” Ali said.

Cyprus is an island located south of Turkey and is about 200 miles away from the epicenter of Turkey’s earthquake on Monday. Ali says his family in Cyprus felt the earthquake, and some people reported minor property damage, but otherwise, his family is safe.

“Cyprus is relatively far but everyone has connections to Turkey,” Ali said. “There were high schools who were visiting [Turkey] from Cyprus for volleyball tournaments and so on, one of those teams has not been heard from yet, so the entire region is in mourning.”

Ali also checked in with his friends in Turkey. They live in a different part of the country from where the earthquake happened and he says they are also safe, but he says people are worried about the number of deaths and the amount of people still missing.

“Some of the footage is very unsettling because people are looking for survivors and people are pleading from the rubble to be rescued,” Ali said.

Ali teaches English at Buffalo State University and for a few years he helped run a study abroad program in Istanbul, Turkey through the university. He made sure to find buildings for students that were structurally built to handle earthquakes. He says he wanted to make sure they were safe in the event that happened.

“People who live in Turkey, live with this notion in the back of their minds that if an earthquake hits it can end up being extremely devastating,” Ali said.

Matt Tice, who’s the director of Vive of Jericho Road, a resettlement agency in Buffalo, released a statement saying:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the earthquake victims in Turkey. Vive remains committed to serve people from all over the world who entrust us with their safety.  That is why it is so important that we raise the funds needed to build a new home for Vive to continue to welcome people from countries like Turkey, Syria and over 90 other countries this year. Please visit vive.jrchc.org to learn more. And let us all strive to love each other in deed and in truth”.

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.