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Kills hundreds across Turkey and Syria after 7.8-magnitude earthquake

Hundreds of people were killed in their sleep when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria early on Monday, levelling buildings and sending shockwaves as far away as Cyprus and Egypt.

The earthquake, one of the strongest to hit Turkey in at least a century, destroyed huge portions of towns in an area where millions of refugees have fled the Syrian civil war and other crises.

Turkey and Syria earthquake 3
Turkey and Syria earthquake

For Syria, this was “historically, the greatest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre,” as Raed Ahmed, the director of the country’s National Earthquake Centre, said on pro-government radio.

According to the health ministry and a local hospital, at least 245 individuals lost their lives in government-controlled territories and in the northern areas held by pro-Turkish militias in Syria.

Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Monday that at least 284 people had lost their lives across Turkey, and that more than 2,300 others had been wounded. He also noted that search and rescue operations were still ongoing in a number of large cities.

Turkey and Syria earthquake
Turkey and Syria earthquake

A winter snowfall had coated main routes in ice and snow, slowing down rescue efforts.

Turkey residents were shown on TV, in their pyjamas, standing in the snow to watch rescue workers search through the rubble of their houses.

Challenge for Erdogan in the Elections

The US Geological Survey reports that the quake occurred at 04:17 local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres (11.2 miles) in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which is home to over two million people.

After the first quake, which the Turkish AFAD emergency response centre estimated to be 7.4 on the Richter scale, more than 40 aftershocks were felt throughout the country.

During a highly fought election on May 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences and called for national unity. He will be under enormous pressure to lead a successful reaction to the calamity.

The Turkish leader expressed optimism that the country will recover quickly and with little loss of life in a tweet.

National Security Advisor for the United States Jake Sullivan expressed “deep worry.”

When asked for help, “we stand ready to supply any and all,” Sullivan added.

Near Syria, a nation where turmoil has raged for over a decade, killing hundreds of thousands and forcing millions to flee their homes, an earthquake rocked a volatile, largely Kurdish region of Turkey.

People buried alive in the debris

Images shown on Turkish television showed rescue workers searching amid the debris of flattened buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and the neighbouring city of Gaziantep.

In one photo from Kahramanmaras, a fire lit up the sky, but its cause was not immediately evident.

Reporters from AFP observed people running out onto the street in Adiyaman, Malatya, and Diyarbakir as buildings collapsed around them.

Although numerous buildings were damaged, Governor of Kahramanmaras Omer Faruk Coskun stated it was too soon to determine the death toll.

Due to the widespread destruction of structures, “at this time it is not feasible to provide the number of dead and wounded,” Coskun stated. That harm is substantial, they say.

In the province of Maltaya, the collapse of a 14-story structure with 28 flats occurred at the same time as the partial collapse of a prominent mosque dating back to the 13th century.

Rescuers in other places fought desperately to free those trapped beneath the rubble.

In front of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, one rescuer was heard stating on NTV news, “We hear voices here — and over there, too.”

200 people might still be buried beneath the debris.

WARNING: DAM

Damage was recorded by the Syrian Ministry of Health in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, and Tartus, where Russia rents a naval base.

According to AFP journalists, the earth rocked in northern Syria, prompting inhabitants to flee in terror.

After more than a decade of conflict, the infrastructure of Aleppo, Syria’s pre-war economic centre, had deteriorated to the point that buildings frequently fell. Additionally, there was insufficient control to verify the safety of new construction projects, some of which were erected illegally.

A Turkish Academy of Sciences seismologist named Naci Gorur has advised swift action to inspect dams in the area for damage after an earthquake.

Earthquakes are common in Turkey, which is located in a seismically active region.

In 1999, the Turkish province of Duzce was rocked by the biggest earthquake to strike Turkey in decades, measuring in at a magnitude of 7.4.

More than 17,000 people were killed in the earthquake, including roughly 1,000 in Istanbul.

Many people in Istanbul have been living in unsafe buildings despite longstanding warnings from experts that a major earthquake may cause massive destruction.

More than 40 people were killed in a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Elazig in January of 2020.

The Aegean coast of Turkey was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in October of that year, killing 114 people and injuring over 1,000.

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