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NYC family among the victims of the earthquake in Turkey, relative says

A relative told local TV station WPIX that her sister, her husband and their two young children had left their home in Corona, Queens to visit the husband’s family. They were on the top floor of a five-story building that collapsed after the earthquake struck, she said.
7.7 magnitude Kahramanmaras earthquake jolts Turkiye's Adiyaman
Collapsed buildings in the city of Van, Turkey on Thursday. Ozkan Bilgin / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A New York City family of four is among the more than 22,000 victims of the devastating earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria, according to a relative of the family and a local Muslim advocacy organization.

Salma Salazar told local TV station WPIX that her sister, Kimberly Firik, 32; her husband, Burak Firik, 35; and their two sons, Hamza, 2, and Bilal, 1, had left their home in Corona, Queens to visit the husband's family in Elbistan, a town in southern Turkey. She said the family was on the top floor of a five-story building that collapsed after the earthquake struck.

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy organization, said in a tweet that the family of four died in the earthquake and that Burak had been a board member of the organization. NBC New York also reported on the news of the family's death, citing the CAIR-NY tweet.

NBC News has not independently verified the family's death.

The State Department said Wednesday that at least three Americans were killed in southeastern Turkey as a result of the earthquakes, but their identities have not been released and it is not clear if the Firik family is considered to be among them.

A spokesperson for the State Department declined to comment further.

"We are working closely with local authorities and other partner organizations to assist any U.S. citizens in the affected areas," a statement from the State Department said. "We offer our sincerest condolences to the victims and to the families of all of those affected."

Salazar, Kimberly Firik's sister, told WPIX that the extended family in Queens were getting updates on Tuesday from a family member in Turkey who was allegedly in his car at the time of the earthquake and watched the building the family was in collapse. Early that afternoon, the group that was assembled in Queens learned of the family's death, WPIX reported, though it's unclear how.

Salazar told WPIX that Kimberly Firik was a biology major at City College and that Burak Firik was a graduate of Columbia University who had worked as a software engineer for Amazon.

A spokesperson for City College confirmed to NBC News that Kimberly Firik graduated from City College in the spring of 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in biology, and a spokesperson from Columbia said Burak Firik graduated from the school with a Master of Science in computer science in May 2018.

A spokesperson for Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

The total number of earthquake victims stands at at least 22,000, according to the most recent information obtained by NBC News. That includes at least 16,170 victims in Turkey, according to the Turkish disaster management agency, and at least 3,192 in Syria, which includes 1,262 in government-held areas, according to the Syrian Health Ministry, and 1,930 in rebel-held territories, according to the White Helmets.