Deadly 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake, 2nd Temblor Strike Southern Turkey, Northern Syria
A second huge earthquake hit central Turkey on Monday, some 12 hours after a 7.8 temblor struck the southeast of the country overnight, killing at least 2,300 people there and in neighboring Syria. The European Mediterranean Seismological Center reported that the second quake measured a 7.5 magnitude with an epicenter some 65 km north-northeast of the city of Kahramanmaraş, which has a population of around 376,000.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the initial quake was the worst disaster to befall the country in over 80 years and warned that the death toll could climb. The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Agency deployed nearly 2,800 search and rescue teams in the disaster-stricken areas, while mosques are being opened to provide shelter to those who cannot return to their homes.
It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the region in more than a century. The earthquake, felt as far as Cairo, struck a region that has been shaped by the long-standing civil war in Syria and the aftermath of it, with millions of Syrian refugees living in Turkey. The quake severely damaged Gaziantep’s famous castle and buildings were reported to have collapsed in a cross-border area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir.
Syria’s state news agency reported at least 320 people had been killed and over 1,000 more wounded. Rescue efforts were expected to prove more difficult in Syria, which has been wracked by brutal civil war for more than a decade. The earthquake heavily impacted the opposition-held regions of Syria, where many people live in buildings that have been damaged from past bombardments and are now displaced from other parts of Syria. Health facilities and hospitals are strained, with many wounded and hundreds still believed to be trapped under the rubble.
The first earthquake, which struck a little after 4 am local time, caught most people while they were sleeping. Tremors from the quake were felt across the region, including Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Lebanon.
Images from the scene of the quake showed massive devastation as rescue workers used cranes and even their bare hands in an effort to reach those trapped underneath thousands of collapsed buildings. Turkey said that 5,383 people had been injured and 2,818 buildings had collapsed in the first temblor. In a tweet, the Turkish president expressed his hope that they would “get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage.” The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers continue to search the wreckage. In a statement, the White Helmets in Syria described the situation as “disastrous” and said entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble.
Dozens of countries have offered their assistance in the rescue and recovery operations.