Powerful 7.8 earthquake destroys buildings in Turkey and Syria

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) —

A powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling buildings and sending panicked residents out on a cold winter night. At least 31 people have been killed and the toll is expected to rise.

Rescuers and residents using flashlights rummaged through piles of tangled metal and concrete rubble in one of the stricken towns. People on the street shouted at others inside a partially overturned building, leaning dangerously.

The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border. Along with several cities, the region is home to millions of Syrian refugees who fled their country’s long civil war. Turkey, which borders Syria to the north, hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world.

On the Syrian side of the border, the earthquake destroyed opposition-held areas that are teeming with several million displaced Syrians with a decrepit health system after years of war. At least 11 people were killed in one town, Atmed, and many more were buried under the rubble, town doctor Muheeb Qaddour told The Associated Press by phone.

“We fear the dead number in the hundreds,” Qaddour said, referring to the rebel-held northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to quake-affected areas.

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as quickly as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.

There were at least 6 aftershocks and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks.

“Our priority is to get people trapped under crumbling buildings out and transfer them to hospitals,” he said.

Counts by various officials put the death toll at least 18 in Turkey and 13 in Syria. At least 130 buildings have collapsed in Turkey’s Malatya province, Governor Hulusi Sahin said.

In northwestern Syria, the opposition Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous”, adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. . Civil Defense urged people to evacuate buildings to congregate in open areas. Emergency rooms were full of injured people, Rass said.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep and a strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.

Syrian state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and in the central city of Hama.

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people took to the streets in fear.

The earthquake rocked residents of Lebanon from their beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many Beirut residents left their homes and took to the streets or drove their cars away from buildings.

The quake came as the Middle East experiences a snowstorm that is expected to continue through Thursday.

Turkey sits atop major fault lines and is frequently rocked by earthquakes.

Some 18,000 people were killed in powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey in 1999.


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