Black Immigrant Daily News
A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, killing more than 2,800 people and injuring thousands more as it toppled thousands of buildings and trapped residents under mounds of rubble.
Authorities feared the death toll would keep climbing as rescuers searched through tangles of metal and concrete for survivors in a region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and a refugee crisis.
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.
“My grandson is 1 1/2 years old. Please help them, please. We can’t hear them or get any news from them since morning. Please, they were on the 12th floor,” Imran Bahur wept by her destroyed apartment building in the Turkish city of Adana. Her daughter and family were still not found.
Tens of thousands who were left homeless in Turkey and Syria faced a night in the cold. In Turkey’s Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 33 kilometres (20 miles) from the epicentre, people took refuge in shopping malls, stadiums and community centres. Mosques around the region were opened to provide shelter.
Syrian civil defence members search for people under the rubble of a destroyed building in Afrin, Syria, Monday, February 6, 2023. (Photo: Zana Halil/DIA images via AP)
The quake, which was centred on Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said officials do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise.
The quake piled more misery on a region that has seen tremendous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the area is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.
In the rebel-held enclave, hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organisation, called the White Helmets said in a statement. The area is packed with some four million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments.
Strained health facilities quickly filled with injured, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organisation.
More than 6,400 people were rescued across 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s disaster management authority.
Civil defence workers and residents search through the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Harem near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, Monday, February 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)
The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.
The US Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 18 kilometres (11 miles). Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude temblor struck more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.
The second jolt in the afternoon caused a multi-storey apartment building to topple face-forward onto the street in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa. The structure disintegrated into rubble and raised a cloud of dust as bystanders screamed, according to video of the scene.
Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometres (200 miles) to the northeast.
In Turkey alone, more than 5,600 buildings were destroyed, authorities said. Hospitals were damaged, and one collapsed in the Turkish city of Iskenderun.
Bitterly cold temperatures could reduce the time frame that rescuers have to save trapped survivors, said Dr Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University. The difficulty of working in areas beset by civil war would further complicate rescue efforts, he said.
Offers of help — from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money — poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO. The vast majority were for Turkey, with 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.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the enclave as “disastrous.”
The opposition-held area, centred on the province of Idlib, has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes. The territory depends on a flow of aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.
At a hospital in Idlib, Osama Abdel Hamid said most of his neighbours died. He said their shared four-storey building collapsed just as he, his wife and three children ran toward the exit. A wooden door fell on them and acted as a shield.
“God gave me a new lease on life,” he said.
In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were brought to a hospital.
Television stations in Turkey aired screens split into four or five, showing live coverage from rescue efforts in the worst-hit provinces.
In the city of Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble, and one could be seen lying on a stretcher on the snowy ground. Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk said a woman was pulled out alive in Gaziantep after a rescue dog detected her.
In Adana, 20 or so people, some in emergency rescue jackets, used power saws atop the cement mountain of a collapsed building to saw out space for any survivors to climb out or be rescued.___
By MEHMET GUZEL, GHAITH ALSAYED and SUZAN FRASER
Alsayed reported from Azmarin, Syria, while Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Bassem Mroue and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut, and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.