Thousands Feared Dead in Massive Overnight Earthquake
A massive magnitude-7.8 earthquake and a string of aftershocks, including one with a magnitude of 7.5, may have killed thousands of people and caused catastrophic damage when the first tremor struck in the dead of night in south-east Turkey and Syria early Monday. Over 2,300 people have already been confirmed dead, according to the Associated Press. Thousands more were injured, and hundreds feared trapped under rubble, and the toll will likely continue to rise. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the death toll had a 20 percent chance of climbing past 10,000.
The earthquake set off a string of tsunami warnings across the Mediterranean, from Greece to Italy, where people were warned to stay away from coastal areas Monday morning.
The USGS said the initial quake struck 14 miles east of the Turkish district of Nurdağı, near the northern border of Syria, and was followed 11 minutes later by a magnitude 6.6 aftershock. It was 11 miles deep.
Later on Monday, the USGS reported another 7.5 magnitude quake close to Turkey’s Ekinözü district, around 65 miles northeast of Nurdağı. The powerful aftershock was just over 6 miles deep. Professor Joanna Faure Walker, head of the University College London Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, said Turkey is particularly susceptible to these high-death count disasters even if the magnitude is not as high as some others. “Turkey has experienced the deadliest earthquake worldwide four times in the last 50 years (in 2020, 1999, 1983 and 1975) so is no stranger to the deadly consequences of such events,” she said Monday in a statement.
Kahramanmaraş'ta Bir deprem daha. 13.24 sıralarında 7.2 şiddetinde Bir deprem yaşandı. Şanlıurfa'da Bir bina daha yıkıldı. İşte o an. pic.twitter.com/LGG0jaJyH0
— Kanal Urfa (@KanalUrfa) February 6, 2023
Rescue operations were hampered by severe weather conditions including snow and freezing rain.
After the initial earthquake, local media reported people digging through the rubble with bare hands before heavy equipment could arrive. Reports of people crying for help under the rubble, including in Adana, Turkey, where a survivor could be heard yelling, “I don’t have the strength anymore,” according to the AP.
On the Syrian side of the border, an area housing more than 4 million people displaced by the civil war was badly hit. Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of earth sciences at University College London, said many of the buildings in the towns affected are simply not designed to cope with such a high-magnitude event. “In Syria many structures have already been weakened by more than a decade of war,” he said. “Sadly, I expect the death toll to rise significantly, and would not be at all surprised by a final death toll in the thousands.”
Several European countries announced they would be sending search and rescue crews and equipment to help comb through the mounds of rubble.
Only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have occurred in the area since 1970. The largest was a magnitude 6.7, which occurred northeast of the current earthquake on Jan. 24, 2020.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the areas affected, working through mazes of metal and slabs on concrete in cold, wet, and snowy winter conditions.
Horrific news of tonight’s earthquake in #Turkey & northern #Syria — the damage looks extensive.
The epicenter region is home to millions of refugees and IDPs, many of whom live in tents & makeshift structures. This is the absolute nightmare scenario for them. And it’s winter. pic.twitter.com/oACzWYtWb2
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) February 6, 2023
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