The death toll surpassed 7,000 in Turkey and Syria following a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit southern Turkey shortly after 4 a.m. local time Monday. Frantic rescue efforts were underway and hundreds of people were reportedly still trapped in the rubble as of Tuesday afternoon, local time, according to The Associated Press.
The damage caused by the massive earthquake and its violent aftershocks was catastrophic. Over 5,600 buildings were knocked over in Turkey alone, according to Turkish Emergency Management. As of Tuesday afternoon, local time, just over 7,000 people were killed, according to Al Jazeera. The number of people injured across Turkey and Syria was said to be in the thousands, including more than 13,000 in Turkey alone.
The quake had a depth of about 11 miles (17.9 kilometers) and struck about 20 miles west-northwest of the major Turkish city of Gaziantep, which has a population of more than 1 million. A 7.5 magnitude aftershock Monday afternoon was not as deep, 6.2 miles (10.0 kilometers) and struck about 2.5 miles south-southeast of Ekinözü, Turkey.
About 10 minutes after the initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred, a 6.7 magnitude temblor was reported. A separate 5.6 magnitude temblor was also reported near the town of Nurdagi, which is home to more than 12,000 people. Nurdagi is located about 16 miles west of the epicenter of the 7.8 earthquake. In total, at least 120 aftershocks followed the initial quake, including the 7.5 earthquake.
While on a fault line, earthquakes of this magnitude are fairly uncommon in the region. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) stated that since 1970, only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have been registered in this region. The largest being a magnitude 6.7 that occurred on January 24, 2020.
"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," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to the AP. "Hopefully, we will leave these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a nation."
Erdogan would later declare a period of national mourning that is expected to last for seven days.
More than 7,800 people were rescued across 10 provinces in Turkey, the AP reported. One of those who was still missing after his teammates and members of the club's technical staff were reportedly pulled from rubble, was former Chelsea and Newcastle soccer forward Christian Atsu, now playing with Turkish club Hatayspor. The AP reported on Tuesday morning that he has been rescued, although his condition is unconfirmed.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that he was in touch with Erdogan as well as Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu. Stoltenberg pledged full support for Turkey, a NATO member, and said NATO allies were mobilizing support.
United States government officials, including President Joe Biden, expressed condolences and said that the U.S. would help with recovery efforts.
"Jill and I were deeply saddened by the news of the devastating earthquakes that have thus far claimed thousands of lives in Turkiye and Syria," Biden said in a statement on Monday.
Biden noted in the statement that his administration is working closely with Turkish officials and U.S.-supported humanitarian partners in Syria to respond to those who have been affected by the quake.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press statement on Monday that he has directed his team to remain in close contact with Turkish allies and humanitarian partners in the coming days to determine the best course of action to help and support the affected regions.
"The United States expresses our deep sadness at the tragic loss of life and destruction across Türkiye and Syria from today's earthquakes," Blinken said. "We are determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead."
Monday evening, it was reported that Los Angeles County Fire would be sending rescue crews to Turkey, with more than 80 firefighters being debriefed on the situation.
A woman sits on the rubble as emergency rescue teams search for people under the remains of destroyed buildings in Nurdagi town on the outskirts of Osmaniye city southern Turkey, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. A powerful earthquake hit southeast Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing and injuring thousands of people. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
The World Health Organization said it was ready to support the Turkish Ministry of Health in the ongoing humanitarian response. "Heavy snow, rainfall and electricity outages aggravate the situation of people waiting outdoors for the aftershocks to end," the WHO said on Twitter.
The WHO said its network of emergency medical teams has been activated to provide "essential health care for the injured and most vulnerable affected by the earthquake." As of Tuesday morning the WHO believes that up to 23 million people could be affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Some of the tremendous damage from the quake was captured in a dramatic video from Diyarbakir, Turkey, Monday morning. The video shows an eight-story apartment building that collapsed into a pile of rubble with rescuers crowding the perimeter. Debris was scattered all around the site of the collapse as first responders worked quickly to pull injured people from the wreckage.
The Hatay Airport, an international airport located in southwestern Turkey, suspended operations after its runway was significantly damaged by the quake. Photos and videos shared on Twitter showed a massive tear in the middle of the airport's only runway.
Light shaking was felt in Ankara, Turkey's capital city, which is located about 318 miles to the northwest. Shaking was also observed in Lebanon. In Israel, the quake was felt around Tel Aviv. According to the USGS, shaking was even reported as far away as Egypt, around the Cairo area.
A storm that passed nearly directly over the epicenter in Gaziantep on Monday produced steady rain in southern Turkey and northern Syria, hampering rescue and recovery efforts. Cold temperatures in quake-impacted areas will also take a toll on the tens of thousands who have been left homeless, with AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures dipping down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday night in Gaziantep.
So far in Gaziantep, people have taken refuge in shopping malls, stadiums and community centers. Mosques were also opened to provide shelter.
"Temperatures will be cooling off behind a cold front that passes through the area ... by Tuesday, any rain showers will have changed to snow showers, though much of southeast Turkey will be seeing these snow showers coming to and end," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert explained.
"It looks to remain cold over the country through the end of the week, with just spotty snow showers in southern parts of Turkey," Reppert continued. Northern regions of the country, near the Black Sea, will see some sea-effect snow occur.
Correction: This story previously misstated the location of Gaziantep in relation to the initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake occurred about 20 miles to the west-northwest of the city, not east-southeast.
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