A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday morning, February 6, destroying hundreds of buildings and killing at least 641 people as at press time.
Turkish officials say they believe hundreds were still trapped under rubble, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.
On both sides of the Turkey-Syria border, residents were woken from sleep by the pre-dawn quake on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night. The quake, felt as far away as Cairo in Egypt, struck a region that has been shaped by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. Millions of Syrian refugees live in Turkey. The area of Syria affected by the quake is divided between government-held territory and the country?s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. The quake was centered about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border outside the city of Gaziantep, a major Turkish provincial capital.
At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.
In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. ?I don?t have the strength anymore,? one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus. a resident of the area aacording to AP..
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that ?search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched? to the areas hit by the quake.
?We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,? he wrote.
Turkey?s Disaster and Emergency Management agency said at least 284 people were killed in seven Turkish provinces. The agency said 440 people were injured. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 237 with more than 630 injured, according to Syrian state media. At least 120 people were killed in rebel-held areas, according to opposition group, White Helmets.
Buildings were reported collapsed in a cross-border swath extending from Syria?s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey?s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. Nearly 900 buildings were destroyed in Turkey?s Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras provinces, said Turkish Vice President Fuat Otkay. A hospital collapsed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Iskanderoun, but casualties were not immediately known, he said.
?Unfortunately, at the same time, we are also struggling with extremely severe weather conditions,? Oktay told reporters. Nearly 2,800 search and rescue teams have been deployed in the disaster-stricken areas, he said.
The opposition?s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation there as ?disastrous? adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble.
Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.
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The level of destruction caused by the earthquake in Turkey makes it look like a war zone. This is utterly heartbreaking. Pray for Turkey and especially for the people trapped under the rubble. pic.twitter.com/PeqPXoNKlF
— KC (@kci2013) February 6, 2023