BERLIN, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Turkish and Kurdish communities in Germany have launched donation drives to send money, warm clothes and blankets to victims of a devastating earthquake that tore through Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday.

As news of the disaster spread and sparked frantic appeals for help, volunteers began collecting aid in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich for the thousands left injured or homeless after their homes were destroyed.

Germany has around 2.3 million people of Turkish origin, the largest Turkish diaspora community in the world, according to the Turkish Community in Germany.

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Levent Cukur has coordinated an aid drive in the boxing gym he runs in Munich.

“We didn’t expect it to go this crazy, it’s mad. We thought we would fill two vans and then send them off but it hasn’t stopped since 10 this morning.”

As he spoke, a group of people were loading boxes of donations onto trucks.The first batch is scheduled to leave for Turkey on Thursday.

“It is currently very cold in the affected regions and people urgently need blankets, warm clothing and boots,” said Tunca Karakas, a member of cultural association Tuerkisch-Deutscher Kreis.

Rescuers were still trying to save people trapped under rubble on Tuesday as the death toll from the earthquake passed 5,000.

“We are throwing ourselves into work,” said Faruk Akalan, a representative in Germany of the Kurdish Red Crescent, which has already sent 250,000 euros ($268,000) to the affected regions.

The Turkish Community in Germany is pointing the community to existing donation drives.

“Sending money is better than sending goods because people themselves know best what they need and can use the money to buy it,” said group chairperson Gökay Sofuoglu.($1 = 0.9330 euros) (Reporting by Friederike Heine and Laura Alviz; Editing by Matthias Williams and Ben Dangerfield)