On Monday, a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing at least 1,400 people, leveling buildings while people were still sleeping, and sending tremors as far away as the island of Cyprus.
According to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, 912 people were killed, 5,383 were injured, and 2,818 buildings collapsed in Turkey. Erdogan stated that he could not predict how many people would die as search and rescue efforts continued.
“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts,” he said, despite the fact that the winter season, cold weather, and the earthquake occurring during the night make things more difficult.
Images on television showed shocked people in Turkey standing in the snow in their pajamas, watching rescuers dig through the debris of destroyed homes.
Earthquake Struck While People Sleeping
The quake struck at 04.17am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometers, according to the US agency, and was followed by a 6.7-magnitude aftershock 15 minutes later. The first quake had a magnitude of 7.4 according to Turkey’s AFAD emergency service centre.
The quake was one of the strongest to strike the region in at least a century.
“I extend my heartfelt condolences to all our citizens affected by the earthquake,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted.
“We hope to get through this disaster as quickly as possible and with as little damage as possible.”
The earthquake destroyed dozens of buildings in southern Turkey as well as neighbouring Syria, which has been wracked by violence for more than a decade, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions.
Rescuers were seen digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep, according to images on Turkish television and social media. According to NTV television, buildings in Adiyaman, Malatya, and Diyarbakir have also collapsed.
According to CNN Turkey, the quake was felt in parts of central Turkey, including Ankara.
Naci Gorur, an earthquake expert with Turkey’s Academy of Sciences, urged local officials to inspect the region’s dams for cracks immediately in order to avoid potentially catastrophic flooding. Turkey is located in one of the most active earthquake zones on the planet.
Earthquake Kills 592 in Syria
According to state media and a medical source, at least 592 people were killed in Syria on Monday when buildings collapsed.
In northern Syria, terrified residents fled their homes shortly after the earthquake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Syrian border.
According to state television, the earthquake killed at least 371 people and injured at least 1,089 more in government-controlled areas of Syria, including Aleppo, Hama, Latakia, and Tartus.
At least 221 people were killed and more than 419 were injured in rebel-held areas of the country’s northwest, according to rescue workers.
“The death toll may rise as many families remain trapped,” the White Helmets rescue organization, which operates in rebel-held areas of the war-torn country, said on Twitter.
“Our teams are on the ground looking for survivors and removing the dead from the rubble,” the statement continued.
In the pouring winter rain, rescuers rushed to look for survivors beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings.
According to the official news agency SANA, 24 people were killed and 100 were injured in Aleppo alone when 20 buildings collapsed in the province.
Buildings Collapse in Syria
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo, Syria’s pre-war commercial hub, frequently collapsed due to dilapidated infrastructure and a lack of oversight to ensure the safety of new construction projects, some of which were built illegally.
According to SANA, the earthquake was felt from Latakia on the west coast to Damascus.
“This is the strongest earthquake since the National Earthquake Centre was founded in 1995,” Raed Ahmed, the center’s director, told SANA.
Five bodies from the rubble of a three-story building that had collapsed near the border town of Azaz. Deaths have also been reported in areas of northern Syria controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“We have been working on rescuing survivors and recovering the dead from under the rubble” in the Azaz and Al-Bab regions, according to Omar Alwan, the area’s medical response coordinator.
Dozens of rescuers and residents had toiled in the dark, searching for survivors in the rubble with flashlights. At least ten buildings had collapsed in Azmarin, near the Turkish border, according to authorities.
A building near Latakia, on Syria’s west coast, collapsed, according to Syrian state television.
According to pro-government media, several buildings in Hama, central Syria, had partially collapsed, with civil defence and firefighters working to pull survivors from the rubble.
Raed Ahmed, who heads Syria’s National Earthquake Centre, told pro-government radio that this was “historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre”.