A 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday, February 6 hit Turkey and war-torn Syria. Authorities feared that the casualties would continue to climb as the death toll already reached 3,400.
Running against time, rescuers cautiously worked through slabs of concrete in the two hard-hit countries by the earthquake searching under the rubble which toppled hundreds of infrastructures hoping to save more survivors and retrieve casualties in the process.
The quake, which was centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles). Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude temblor, likely triggered by the first, struck more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.
According to Turkish authorities, at least 2,379 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with nearly 15,000 injured. Government-held areas of Syria, the death toll climbed to 656 people, with some 1,400 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In Syria’s rebel-held northwest region, they said at least 450 people died, with many hundreds injured.
Tens of thousands left homeless in Turkey and Syria faced a night in the cold. In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicenter, people took refuge in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared seven days of national mourning.
U.S. President Joe Biden called Erdogan to express condolences and offer assistance to the NATO ally. The White House said it was sending search-and-rescue teams to support Turkey’s efforts.
In Syria’s rebel-held enclave, hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization known as the White Helmets said in a statement. The area is packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many live in buildings that are already wrecked from military bombardments..
An official with Turkey’s disaster management authority said that more than 7,800 people were rescued across 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999. The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
In Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area. While in Turkey alone, more than 5,600 buildings were destroyed, authorities said. Hospitals were damaged, and one collapsed in the city of Iskenderun.
Dozens of countries have pledged help including the European Union and NATO from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money. The vast majority were for Turkey, with a Russian and even an Israeli promise of help to the Syrian government, but it was not clear if any would go to the devastated rebel-held pocket in the northwest.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that 224 buildings in northwestern Syria were destroyed and at least 325 were damaged, including aid warehouses. The U.N. had been assisting 2.7 million people each month via cross-border deliveries, which could now be disrupted.