Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria kill more than 2,500: NPR
A powerful earthquake shook southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, killing more than 2,500 people and injuring thousands more.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake occurred at 4:17 a.m. local time in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, according to the US Geological Survey.
Hundreds of families are still trapped, according to rescuers. Turkey’s Ministry of Homeland Disasters said it has deployed more than 9,600 search and rescue personnel to search for possible survivors. More than 2,800 buildings collapsed, authorities said.
Citing Turkish authorities, the Associated Press reports that more than 1,600 people have been killed in 10 Turkish provinces, and more than 11,000 were injured.
At least 919 people have died across Syria, AP reports. The Syrian Health Ministry says more than 539 people have been killed in government-held areas, while groups in the rebel-held northwest say the death toll is at least 380.
Aftershocks continue to rock the region
Rami Al Sayed/AFP via Getty Images
Rescue efforts were complicated by a series of aftershocks on Monday: At least 55 earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 or greater have struck near Turkey’s Syrian border in the past 24 hours, according to the US Geological Survey .
The first quake was the largest: a magnitude 7.8 quake that struck at 4:17 a.m. local time. Since then, at least 15 of the quakes have been magnitude 5.0 or greater, and two have been magnitude 6.0 or greater, according to the USGS.
The earthquakes are concentrated in a small area, with two of the most distant epicentres separated by only about 200 miles.
The powerful aftershocks sowed danger and panic among the public, as illustrated by a television news crew which documented the moment another powerful quake forced people to flee in hopes of escaping the dangers posed by collapsing buildings and shaking the ground.
Some tried to flee in their cars, which blocked the roads and made it even more difficult for help to reach the injured. In Turkey, mosques have opened their doors to shelter those who cannot return home.
Bad weather complicates search and rescue efforts
Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The country was preparing for a snowstorm, with Turkish Airlines canceling more than 200 flights on Sunday and Monday due to forecast conditions. In neighboring Greece, heavy snowfall closed schools, shops and many businesses and public services in Athens on Monday.
The earthquake in northern Syria has hit parts of the country already devastated by more than a decade of civil war.
Millions of Syrians who have fled the fighting are living in refugee camps or basic tent camps set up among olive groves along the border with Turkey.
The Union of Medical and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an organization that provides health care in rebel-held areas of northwest Syria, said “so far, our hospitals in northern -western Syria received 91 dead and treated more than 500 seriously injured victims of the earthquake.”
Four of the hospitals were damaged and evacuated, the organization said.
The United Nations watchdog, OCHA, says that out of the population of 4.6 million people in northwestern Syria, some 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 3 million inhabitants of the region are in a situation of food insecurity.
World leaders send aid and condolences
More than 40 world leaders have offered help and assistance, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
President Biden released a message saying he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation” in Turkey and Syria. Biden said in a tweet that he had ordered his administration to closely monitor the situation, coordinate with Turkish officials, and “provide all necessary assistance.”
The US aid response “is already underway” in Turkey, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement released by the State Department. And in Syria, he added, US-backed humanitarian groups are also responding to the earthquake emergency.
The US response will include USAID – the US Agency for International Development – and other federal agencies, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday.
The United Nations General Assembly observed a minute of silence for the more than 2,300 victims of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey during its 58th meeting this morning.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted he is “deeply saddened” by the news of the earthquakes before the meeting. The tweet also offered emergency assistance.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also announced on Monday that NATO allies would step up to help Turkey. Relations between the alliance and Turkey remained strained after Turkish President Erdogan blocked offers from Sweden and Finland to join the alliance in May.
“Full solidarity with our Ally Türkiye following this terrible earthquake,” Stoltenberg said on his Twitter account. “I am in contact with President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu, and NATO allies are mobilizing their support now.”
Likewise, Israel’s decision to send search and rescue teams to Turkey reflects the warming of ties between the countries after years of tension.
Thousands of search and rescue personnel were mobilized
Rémi Banet/AFP via Getty Images
Even war-torn Ukraine, Turkey’s neighbor across the Black Sea, has offered to help with disaster recovery. Turkey, a NATO member that has remained friendly with Ukraine and Russia, has used its influence to push for peace talks and help mediate a grain deal between the two countries.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said hundreds of Turkish Red Crescent staff and volunteers are supporting people on the ground with mobile kitchens, catering vehicles, tents and blankets.
Monday’s earthquake was one of the country’s worst disasters in decades. The size and extent of seismic activity roughly equals of a 1999 earthquake that struck Turkey, one of the deadliest earthquakes in history that killed more than 17,000 people.
Among the damaged structures at present is a 2,000-year-old castle in southeastern Turkey, according to state and local reports.
Gaziantep Castle, located in the heart of the city closest to the epicenter of the quake, had previously withstood multiple invasions, renovations and regime changes.
Revisit how this story unfolded via our live digital coverage.
Ruth Sherlock, Jawad Rizkallah, Emma Bowman, Ayana Archie and NPR’s Daniel Estrin contributed reporting.