Powerful earthquake shakes Turkey and Syria, killing more than 1,900 people

Rescuers and residents of several towns searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and concrete. A hospital in Turkey has collapsed and patients, including newborn babies, have been evacuated from facilities in Syria.

In the Turkish city of Adana, a resident said three buildings near his home were toppled. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” a survivor could be heard screaming from under the rubble as rescuers tried to reach him, said resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavuz.

“Because debris removal efforts continue in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we don’t know how much the number of dead and injured will increase,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. . “Let us hope that we will leave these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a nation.”

The quake, which was centered in Kahramanmaras province in southeastern Turkey, was felt as far away as Cairo. It sent residents of Damascus rushing into the streets and jolted people awake from their beds in Beirut.

It hit a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the affected strip is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-controlled enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from this conflict.

Opposition-held areas in Syria are teeming with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of them live in buildings already destroyed by past bombardments. Hundreds of families remained trapped in the rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the White Helmets, said in a statement.

Health facilities and overcrowded hospitals were quickly filled with injured people, emergency workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity ward, according to the medical organization SAMS.

The region sits atop major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 people were killed in an equally powerful earthquake that struck northwestern Turkey in 1999.

The US Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8. Hours later, a magnitude of 7.5 struck more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. An official from Turkey’s disaster management agency said it was a new quake, not an aftershock, although its effects were not immediately clear. Hundreds of aftershocks were expected after the two quakes, Orhan Tatar told reporters.

Thousands of buildings have collapsed in a wide area stretching from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Diyarbakir in Turkey, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. A hospital collapsed in the Mediterranean coastal town of Iskenderun, but the victims were not immediately known, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said.

TV stations in Turkey broadcast screens split into fours or fives, showing live coverage of rescue efforts in the hardest-hit provinces. In the town of Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble, and one was seen lying on a stretcher on the snowy ground.

Offers of aid – from search and rescue teams to medical supplies and money – have poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO.

Damage evident in photos of affected areas is usually associated with significant loss of life – while extremely cold temperatures and the difficulty of working in civil war-torn areas will only complicate rescue efforts, said Dr. Steven Godby, an expert in the natural sciences. dangers at Nottingham Trent University.

In Turkey, people trying to leave disaster areas have caused traffic jams, hampering the efforts of emergency teams trying to reach disaster areas. Authorities have urged residents not to use the roads. Mosques in the area have been opened to provide shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes amid near-freezing temperatures.

In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines through a mountain of wreckage, passing shattered concrete, household effects and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while diggers were digging into the rubble below.

In northwest Syria, the quake has added new woes to the opposition-held enclave centered on Idlib province, which has been besieged for years with frequent Russian and government airstrikes . The territory depends on a flow of aid from neighboring Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

The opposition Syrian Civil Defense called the situation there “disastrous”.

At a hospital in Darkush in Idlib, Osama Abdelhamid said most of his neighbors had died. He said their shared four-story apartment building collapsed as he, his wife and three children ran for the exit. A wooden door fell on them and acted as a shield.

“God gave me a new breath of life,” he said.

In the small town of Azmarin held by Syrian rebels in the mountains near the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were taken to hospital.

Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums said the quake caused damage to the Marqab, or watchtower castle, built by the Crusaders on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Part of a tower and parts of some walls have collapsed.

In Turkey, meanwhile, the quake damaged a historic hilltop castle in the center of the provincial capital of Gaziantep, about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicenter. Parts of the walls and watchtowers of the fortresses were razed and other parts heavily damaged, images from the city showed.

The USGS said the quake was 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep.

More than 1,100 people have been killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with some 7,600 injured, according to the country’s disaster management agency. The death toll in areas controlled by the Syrian government stands at more than 430 people, with some 1,280 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In the rebel-held northwest of the country, groups operating there said the death toll was at least 380, with several hundred injured.

Huseyin Yayman, a lawmaker in Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were trapped under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk TV by phone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are in the street. It’s raining, it’s winter.


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