Earthquake in Turkey, earthquake in Syria: more than 4,800 dead in Turkey, earthquake in Syria
Rescuers in Turkey and Syria braved freezing darkness, aftershocks and collapsing buildings on Tuesday as they dug for survivors buried in a series of earthquakes that killed at least 4,800 people.
Disaster management agencies said several thousand buildings had been razed to towns across a vast border region, sowing misery in a region already plagued by war, insurgency, refugee crises and a recent outbreak of cholera.
Overnight, survivors used their bare hands to scoop up the twisting ruins of multi-storey buildings – trying to save family, friends and anyone else sleeping inside when the first massive 7.8 magnitude quake struck. hit early Monday.
“Where is my mother ?” asked a distraught seven-year-old girl who was pulled – her face, hair and pajamas covered in dust – from a collapsed building in Hatay, on the Turkish side of the border.
The feeling of disbelief was widespread, as residents struggled to comprehend the scale of the disaster.
“We thought it was the apocalypse,” said Melisa Salman, a 23-year-old journalist in the southeastern Turkish town of Kahramanmaras.
Some of the greatest devastation occurred near the quake’s epicenter between Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, a city of two million people where entire blocks now lie in ruins under the accumulating snow.
As residents tried to clear a mountain of masonry, plasterboard and furniture that had once been a multi-storey building, another collapsed nearby – sending crowds screaming and clamoring for safety.
With aftershocks continuously shaking the area, many terrified and exhausted survivors spent the night outside, too scared to return home.
Some huddled under bus shelters, some wrapped themselves in plastic to fend off freezing rain and others burned debris for warmth.
Mustafa Koyuncu got his wife and five children into their parked car.
“We can’t go home,” the 55-year-old told AFP. “Everyone is scared.”
Turkish relief agency AFAD put the latest death toll at 3,381 in that country alone, bringing the confirmed tally in Turkey and Syria to 4,890.
The toll is feared to rise inexorably, with World Health Organization officials estimating that up to 20,000 people could have died.
“There is a family I know under the rubble,” said Omer El Cuneyd, a 20-year-old student in the Turkish town of Sanliurfa.
“Until 11:00 a.m. or noon, my friend was still answering the phone. But she’s not answering anymore. She’s over there.”
Overwhelmed doctors struggled to treat the approximately 20,000 injured.
– Everything and anything –
The US Geological Survey said the first earthquake on Monday occurred at 4:17 a.m. (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 18 kilometers (11 miles).
The initial quake was so powerful it was felt as far away as Greenland and was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a 7.5 magnitude tremor that struck amid search and rescue work on Monday .
The impact was devastating and sparked a global response, with dozens of nations from Ukraine to New Zealand pledging to send aid.
But a winter blizzard blanketed the region’s main roads in ice and snow and officials said three major airports were rendered inoperative, complicating lifesaving aid deliveries.
Much of the quake-affected area of northern Syria has already been decimated by years of war and aerial bombardments by Syrian and Russian forces that have destroyed homes, hospitals and clinics.
The conflict is already shaping the emergency response, with Syria’s UN envoy Bassam Sabbagh apparently ruling out reopening border crossings that would allow aid to reach areas controlled by rebel groups.
The Syrian Health Ministry reported damage in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartous, where Russia leases a naval facility.
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo – Syria’s pre-war commercial center – often collapsed due to dilapidated infrastructure.
Authorities cut natural gas and electricity to the area as a precaution and also closed schools for two weeks.
The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, has expressed fears over heavy damage to two cities on its heritage list, Aleppo in Syria and Diyarbakir in Turkey.
In a prison holding mostly members of the Islamic State group in northwestern Syria, prisoners mutinied after the quakes, and at least 20 escaped, a source at the facility told AFP.
The United States, the European Union and Russia all immediately sent their condolences and offers of assistance.
President Joe Biden promised his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the United States would send “all” the aid needed to help recover from a devastating earthquake.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also offered to provide “necessary assistance” to Turkey, whose combat drones are helping Kyiv fight the Russian invasion.
Chinese state media said on Tuesday that Beijing was sending rescuers, medical teams and other supplies.
Turkey is in one of the most active seismic zones in the world.
The country’s last 7.8 magnitude quake was in 1939, when 33,000 people died in the eastern province of Erzincan.
Turkey’s Duzce region suffered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in 1999, which killed more than 17,000 people.
Experts have long warned that a major earthquake could devastate Istanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with ramshackle houses.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)