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East Tennesseans head to Turkey-Syria border to provide relief after earthquake killed thousands

"In the first few hours of any kind of crisis, those are usually the most critical moments," said Andrew Randazzo, an emergency medic.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Search and rescue efforts continue at the Turkey-Syria border. Officials report more than 11,000 people have died from a recent 7.8 earthquake. Here in East Tennessee, people have stepped up to help.

Yassin Terou, the owner of Yassin's Falafel House, began an online fundraiser Monday. Since the launch, people have donated over $100,000 dollars to the relief fund. He plans to help launch an emergency soup kitchen and fund some medical care.

He said the fundraiser was made possible in collaboration with non-profit organizations like Syria Relief and Development, as well as CelebrateMercy. He mentioned donations have come from not only across Tennessee but nationwide. 

For him, these relief efforts are meant to save lives. 

"Every dollar is going to be helping on the ground," Terou said. "Every dollar is going to feed a baby, is going to give a meal to someone."

He said that by Thursday, every dollar of those donations will be spent helping people on the ground. Terou will be heading to the Turkey-Syria border to serve meals and provide medical aid. 

He will be heading to the border with Andrew Randazzo, an emergency medic. His experiences have taken him to work in natural disasters in the past, and he said right now is the time to go and provide help.

Over a video call, he said the first few hours and days after a disaster are critical. 

"The first few hours of any kind of crisis, those are usually the most critical moments," Randazzo said. "Three to five days, that's where you can make the most impact because there's a lot of chaos, there are limited resources."

When Randazzo heard the news of the earthquake he was in Colombia with his family. He immediately took action and began to mobilize. For him, this kind of response is second nature. 

"It's not out of the norm to get a call and then within 24 to 48 hours be on a plane," he said. 

Terou said the plan is for them both to be there by Friday and said they will begin their travels on Thursday. He said this can change because roads and airports could close. 

The goal is for Terou and Randazzo to be there for two weeks and to create a small home base there.

"Imagine if we can build a team from Knoxville going there special from Knoxville," Terou said. 

When they set foot there, a crew of translators and guides will be with them. 

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