A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocks Turkey and Syria, killing hundreds

Earthquake in Turkey
People and rescue teams try to reach trapped residents in collapsed buildings in Adana, Turkey, February 6, 2023, after a powerful tremor knocked down several buildings in southeastern Turkey and Syria.

IHA agency via AP

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, collapsing buildings and sparking a desperate search for survivors among the rubble in cities and towns across the region. At least 360 were killed – 237 in government-controlled areas of Syria alone – and the death toll continued to mount. Hundreds and hundreds were injured, authorities from both nations said.

On both sides of the border, on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night, residents roused from their sleep by the predawn quake rushed outside. Buildings were leveled and strong aftershocks continued.

Rescuers and residents in several cities searched for survivors under the rubble of their homes and worked their way through tangles of metal and chunks of concrete.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency said at least 76 people were killed and 440 injured in seven Turkish provinces. In addition to the 237 dead in government-controlled areas of Syria, more than 630 were injured, according to Syrian state media. At least 47 people were reported killed in rebel-held areas.

In the Turkish city of Adana, a resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. “I have no strength left,” shouted a survivor from under the rubble when rescue workers tried to reach him, said local journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus. Farther east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams were rushing people on stretchers out of a mound of pancake concrete floors that was once an apartment building.

On the Syrian side of the border, the quake devastated opposition-held regions home to around 4 million people displaced from other parts of Syria by the country’s long civil war. Many of them live in squalid conditions with little health care, while Russian-backed Syrian forces surround the area, sometimes conducting airstrikes. Rescue workers said hospitals in the area were overcrowded.

“We fear the death toll is in the hundreds,” Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor, said by phone from the city of Atmeh, referring to the entire rebel area. Raed Salah, head of the White Helmets, the emergency relief organization in opposition areas, said whole neighborhoods had collapsed in some areas.

The quake, which was felt as far away as Cairo, was about 60 miles from the Syrian border, north of the city of Gaziantep, a large Turkish provincial capital with a population of more than 2 million. The region is characterized by more than a decade of war in Syria. Millions of Syrian refugees live in Turkey. The quake-affected part of Syria is divided into government-held and opposition-held areas.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was 11 miles deep.

At least 20 aftershocks followed a few hours later in daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement saying: “The United States is deeply concerned by the reports of today’s destructive earthquake in Turkiye and Syria. We are ready to provide any and all assistance required. President Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to review U.S. response options to help those most affected. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the Turkiye government.”

Many other nations also offered their help. Underneath — war-torn Ukrainewhose President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was “close to the friendly Turkish people” and was ready to provide assistance, according to Reuters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the areas affected by the quake”.

“We hope that together we can get through this disaster as quickly as possible and with as little damage as possible,” he wrote.

At least 76 people were killed in seven Turkish provinces, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency. According to the agency, 440 people were injured.

Buildings were reported to have collapsed in a strip stretching from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 200 miles northeast.

In Turkey, people trying to leave quake-hit regions caused traffic jams and hampered emergency teams’ efforts to reach the affected areas. Authorities asked residents not to go out on the streets. Mosques in the region have been opened as a refuge for people unable to return to their damaged homes in freezing temperatures.

In Diyarbakir, rescue teams called for silence as they tried to listen for survivors under the rubble of an 11-story building. Rescuers pulled a man out and carried him on a stretcher through a dense crowd of hundreds of people anxiously watching the rescue efforts. A grey-haired woman wailed before being led away by a man while a white-helmeted paramedic tried to calm a crying girl who was also being cuddled by two friends.

In northwestern Syria, the opposition Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “catastrophic,” adding that entire buildings had collapsed and people were trapped under the rubble. Civil Defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open spaces. The emergency rooms are full of the injured, said Amjad Rass, president of the Syrian American Medical Society.

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people took to the streets in fear.

The tremor jolted residents of Lebanon from their beds and shook buildings for about 40 seconds. Many Beirut residents left their homes and took to the streets or drove their cars away from buildings.

The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to last through Thursday.

Turkey lies on major fault lines and is frequently rocked by earthquakes.

About 18,000 people died in 1999 in a powerful earthquake in north-west Turkey.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/earthquake-turkey-syria-gaziantep-casualties/ A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocks Turkey and Syria, killing hundreds

Rick Schindler

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