Death toll climbs as 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocks Turkey and Syria: Here's everything we know
Photos show the devastation and desperate search for survivors after an earthquake hit the border of Turkey and Syria.
At least 4,000 people were killed after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the border of Turkey and Syria before dawn Monday, toppling thousands of buildings and leaving hundreds of people trapped under rubble.
The quake, which was centered on Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, could be felt as far away as Cairo and Beirut, as powerful aftershocks continued to rattle the region.
Here’s everything we know about the earthquake and its aftermath.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a depth of 17.9 kilometers, or about 11 miles, at 4:17 a.m. local time.
The Associated Press described the moment it struck: “Residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside in the rain and snow to escape falling debris, while those who were trapped cried for help. Throughout the day, major aftershocks rattled the region, including a jolt nearly as strong as the initial quake. After night fell, workers were still sawing away slabs and pulling out bodies as desperate families waited for news on trapped loved ones.”
Dozens of aftershocks followed. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude quake struck more than 60 miles away. An official from Turkey’s disaster management agency said it was a new earthquake, not an aftershock, the AP said.
Death toll climbs
In Turkey, officials said the death toll had risen to almost 2,300, with more than 11,000 injured. In Syria, the death toll was more than 1,100 combined in both government-controlled and rebel-held areas, officials there said.
Thousands of rescues were carried out in both countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the death toll will undoubtedly increase.
“Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise,” he said. “Hopefully, we will leave these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a nation.”
Winter weather complicates recovery efforts
Bitterly cold temperatures and precipitation were complicating the search-and-rescue efforts, Reuters reported.
“Temperatures in some areas were expected to fall to near freezing overnight, worsening conditions for people trapped under rubble or left homeless,” the news service said. “Rain was falling on Monday after snowstorms swept the country at the weekend.”
What’s more, “poor internet connections and damaged roads between some of the worst-hit cities in Turkey’s south, homes to millions of people, hindered efforts to assess and address the impact.”
Quake struck war-torn region
The earthquake struck a region that has been battered on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria.
USA Today explained the dynamic that is at play:
“On the Syrian side, the region is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey is home to millions of refugees from that conflict. About 4 million people live in the opposition-held regions in Syria, many of them displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of the residential buildings were already unsafe because of bombardments.”
The region also sits on top of major fault lines. In 1999, a string of earthquakes struck northwest Turkey, killing nearly 18,000 people.
Erdogan called Monday’s quake the biggest disaster since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, which killed more than 30,000.
Biden vows support
In a statement, President Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake” and has directed his administration to provide any and all needed assistance.
“Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake,” Biden said. “U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria. Today, our hearts and our deepest condolences are with all those who have lost precious loved ones, those who are injured, and those who saw their homes and businesses destroyed.”