Turkey earthquake: More than 200 people killed in Turkey, Syria after 7.8 magnitude quake
Ankara, Turkey — A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, collapsing buildings and sparking a frantic search for survivors among the rubble in cities and towns across the region. At least 207 were killed and hundreds injured, and the death toll was expected to rise.
On both sides of the border, residents were woken up by the tremors several hours before sunrise and rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night. Dozens of buildings collapsed in cities across the border region.
Rescue workers and local residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of destroyed buildings in several towns on both sides of the border, working their way through tangles of metal and chunks of concrete.
In the Turkish city of Adana, witnesses said they heard a person calling for help from under the rubble of a building. “I don’t have the strength to go on,” the person exclaimed. Further east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams were working on 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 medical care. At least 11 were killed in one town, Atmeh, and many more were buried in the rubble, a town doctor, Muheeb Qaddour, told The Associated Press by phone.
“We fear the death toll is in the hundreds,” Qaddour said, referring to the rebel-held Northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”
The quake, which was felt as far away as Cairo, was about 90 kilometers 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 marked 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.
At least 20 aftershocks followed a few hours later in daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.
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.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said at least 76 people in seven Turkish provinces. According to the agency, 440 people were injured. According to Syrian state media, the death toll in government-held areas of Syria rose to 111 with at least 516 injured. Earlier, 20 people had been killed in rebel-controlled areas.
Buildings were reported to have collapsed in a strip stretching from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (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.
The US Geological Survey said the center of the quake was about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep. It was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep.
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.
Copyright © 2023 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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