Earthquake in Turkey: A 7.8-magnitude quake wiped out entire sections of major cities; a 7.5-magnitude quake struck southeast Turkey tonight.
Over 1,400 people were killed in the most powerful earthquake in nearly a century, leveling buildings and causing tremors as far away as Greenland.
Several sections of major Turkish cities were destroyed by the 7.8-magnitude night-time tremor, followed hours later by a slightly smaller one in a region where millions of people have fled the Syrian civil war.
According to Raed Ahmed, head of Syria’s National Earthquake Center, it’s the biggest earthquake ever recorded.
State media and medical sources say at least 560 people died in rebel- and government-controlled parts of Syria.
Another 912 people died in Turkey, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose handling of one of the biggest disasters could affect his re-election chances in May.
More than 50 aftershocks followed the initial quake, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor on Monday afternoon while search and rescue workers were doing their thing.
AFP reporters and witnesses felt the second jolt in Ankara, Turkey, and Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Watching rescuers dig through the debris of damaged homes with their hands, shocked survivors rushed out into the snow-covered streets in their pyjamas.
Muhittin Orakci, a stunned survivor in the mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, told AFP that seven of his family members were under the rubble.
It’s my sister and her three kids, along with her husband, her father-in-law, and her mother-in-law.
A winter blizzard covered major roads in ice and snow, hampering the rescue. Three major airports in the area were inoperable because of the earthquake, complicating aid delivery.
“We hope that we can get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with as little damage as possible,” Erdogan said.
Syria’s collapsed homes –
Approximately two million people live near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which was struck at 04:17 am (0117 GMT) at a depth of 17.9 km (11 miles).
As far as Greenland, the quake tremors were felt.
Syria quake survivor Osama Abdel Hamid said his family was sleeping when the shaking started.
“I woke up my wife and kids and we ran to the door.” When we opened it, everything collapsed.
Syria’s civil defence says teams are scrambling to rescue trapped people.
The rubble is still covering many families in different cities and villages in northwestern Syria, said Ismail Alabdallah.
Washington, the European Union, and Russian all immediately sent condolences and offers of help.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered to provide “the necessary assistance” to Turkey, whose combat drones are helping Kyiv fight the Russian invasion.
– ‘People under rubble’ –
Images on Turkish television showed rescuers digging through rubble across city centres and residential neighbourhoods of almost all the big cities running along the border with Syria.
Some of the heaviest devastation occurred near the quake’s epicentre between Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, where entire city blocks lay in ruins under the gathering snow.
Due to the destruction of so many buildings, Kahramanmaras Governor Omer Faruk Coskun said it was too early to estimate the death toll.
At the moment, it is not possible to give the number of dead and injured due to the destruction of so many buildings, Coskun said. “The damage is severe.”
A 13th-century mosque partially collapsed in Maltaya, where a 14-story building with 28 apartments housed 92 people.
Posts on social media showed a 2,200-year-old hilltop castle built by Roman armies in Gaziantep lying in ruins, its walls partially razed.
One rescuer in Diyarbakir was overheard saying on NTV television in front of a flattened building, “We hear voices everywhere.”.
“Under the rubble, there may be 200 people.”
– Power outages –
In Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, and Tartus, where Russia leases a naval base, the Syrian health ministry reported damage.
After the ground shook, terrified residents fled their homes in northern Syria, according to AFP.
Despite the lack of supervision during the war, buildings in Aleppo, Syria’s pre-war commercial hub, often collapsed due to dilapidated infrastructure.
Turkish earthquake expert Naci Gorur urged local officials to check the region’s dams immediately for cracks to avoid potentially catastrophic flooding.
As a precaution, officials cut off natural gas and electricity in the region, closing schools for two weeks.
The aftershocks may continue for days despite mostly decreasing in energy, bringing the risk of collapse of structures already weakened by the earlier events, says David Rothery, an earthquake expert at the Open University.
As a result, search and rescue efforts are at risk.”
The earthquake zone in Turkey is one of the most active in the world.
In 1999, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake devastated the Turkish region of Duzce, killing more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.
Istanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with rickety homes, has long been threatened by a large earthquake.
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