7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria, hundreds of dead

An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 hit southern Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, killing hundreds in both countries and causing very significant damage according to initial reports that are constantly changing.

At least 284 people have been killed in Turkey and more than 2,000 injured, in seven different provinces, according to the first data from the government agency for disaster management (Afad) which counts nearly 1,800 collapsed buildings.

In Syria, 237 people have lost their lives, according to the authorities and dozens more in rebel areas.

More than 600 people were injured, the same sources said.

“My sister and her three children are under the rubble. Also her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law. Seven members of our family are under the debris,” Muhittin Orakci, who was waiting for rescue operations in front of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, in the southeast of the country, told AFP.

“His sister is still under the debris,” said a woman pointing to another crying victim in Diyarbakir.

The balance sheet is likely to change rapidly given the number of collapsed buildings in the cities affected, such as Adana, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diayarbakir in particular.

In Iskenderun and Adiyaman, it was the public hospitals that collapsed under the effect of the earthquake, which occurred in the middle of the night at 4:17 a.m. local time (1:17 a.m. GMT), according to the American seismological institute USGS, at a depth of about 17.9 kilometers. .

The epicenter is located in the district of Pazarcik, in the province of Kahramanmaras (south-east), about 60 km as the crow flies from the Syrian border.

This earthquake is the largest in Turkey since the earthquake of August 17, 1999, which caused the death of 17,000 people, including a thousand in Istanbul.

Severe weather

The bad weather in this mountainous region paralyzes the main airports around Diyarbakir and Malatya, where it continues to snow very heavily, leaving the survivors haggard, in their pajamas outside in the cold.

“We hear voices here and there. We believe that maybe 200 people are under the rubble,” said a rescue worker dispatched to a destroyed building in Diyarbakir, according to images broadcast on the NTV channel.

Faced with this desolation, the inhabitants everywhere are mobilizing and trying to clear the ruins with their bare hands, using buckets to evacuate the debris.

Further south, still according to NTV, the Byzantine citadel of Gaziantep, erected in the 6th century, has partially collapsed.

Turkish rescuers and civil defense as well as Syrian firefighters are at work trying to extract possible victims from the rubble, according to local media.

On Twitter, Turkish Internet users shared the identity and location of people trapped under the rubble in several cities in the south-east of the country.

50 aftershocks were recorded in Turkey, according to Afad.

Adana city mayor Zeydan Karalar said two 17-storey and 14-storey buildings were destroyed, according to TRT.

13 people were killed in the province of Adiyaman, announced the vice president Fuat Oktay, reporting a hundred collapsed buildings.

At least 47 people were killed and 550 others injured in Malatya province, according to AFAD.

In Gaziantep, 80 people died and 600 people were injured. 581 buildings collapsed in the province.

The gas pipelines supplying the region were also affected and the provinces of Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep are deprived of gas, said the public body Botas.

The tremors, felt across the southeast of the country, were also felt in Lebanon and Cyprus, according to AFP correspondents, as well as in Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the country in Erbil and Douk, but no casualties has not been reported.

Call for international help

“All our teams are on alert. We have issued a level four alarm. It is a call, including for international help,” Turkish Interior Minister S├╝leyman Soylu told the Haberturk channel.

“Our teams are on alert to rescue the survivors,” also said the Syrian White Helmets, rescuers engaged in rebel areas in Syria, on Twitter.

Azerbaijan, a brother country of Turkey, has announced the immediate dispatch of 370 rescuers, according to the official Turkish Anadolu agency.

The United States, France, Italy and Israel have said they are ready to do the same.

The governor of Gaziantep province called on residents to gather outside despite the cold, while the head of Diyanet, the Turkish public body responsible for supervising worship, called on Turks in need to find refuge in the mosques.

Turkey is located on one of the most active seismic zones in the world.

At the end of November, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, injuring around 50 people and causing limited damage, according to the Turkish emergency services.

In January 2020, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the provinces of Elazig and Malatya (East), killing more than 40 people.

In October of the same year, a magnitude 7 earthquake in the Aegean Sea killed 114 people and injured more than 1,000 in Turkey.

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