“A devastation”: Turkey and Syria hit by two violent earthquakes, killing thousands

Thousands of people were killed in a violent earthquake in Syria and Turkey on Monday that was centered in Turkey and that collapsed many houses, according to state media and hospitals.

A first earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck southern Turkey and neighboring Syria, causing extensive damage. The earthquake struck at 4:17 a.m. local time in Pajarsik district of Kahramanmaras province (southeast), about 60 kilometers away from the Syrian border as the crow flies.

A few hours later, a new earthquake of magnitude 7.5 struck southeastern Turkey, 4 km southeast of the city of Ekinozu.

Translation: “A new 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey. Journalists are running and shouting. »

The ever-changing toll suggests more than 5,000 dead and thousands injured in the two countries.

They are expected to be heavier as a large number of people are still trapped under the rubble. The snow, which is falling heavily and the drop in temperatures expected in the evening and tomorrow, will make the situation of people themselves homeless, as well as the work of relief workers, more difficult.

The earthquakes are the most significant in Turkey since the August 17, 1999 earthquake, which killed 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it “the worst disaster since 1939”.

Pictures circulating on social media show the extent of the damage.

Translation: “More than ten cities in Turkey have been affected. Türkiye appealed to the international community for help. Neighboring countries including Lebanon and Syria have also been affected. May Allah help them in this difficult time, prayers and donations, Turks need help. »

Translation: ” [La province de] Kahramanmaraş and creepy background noises. »

In Turkey, testimonies, one more terrible than the other, have followed each other since dawn.

“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 rubble,” Muhittin Oraki, who was waiting for rescue operations in front of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, southeast of the country, told AFP.

“We hear voices here and there. According to images broadcast on Russian channel NTV, we think that maybe 200 people are under the rubble,” said a rescuer sent to a collapsed building in Diyarbakir shortly after the earthquake.

The balance sheet could change rapidly due to the number of collapsed buildings, especially in the affected cities such as Adana, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Diyarbakir.

Gas pipelines supplying the region were also affected and Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep provinces were deprived of gas, Botas said.

Translation: “Natural gas pipeline in hand.” [au sud de la Turquie] Burning due to strong earthquakes. »

In Alexandretta and Adiaman, government hospitals collapsed after the midnight earthquake.

To make matters worse, the bad weather that hit this mountainous region paralyzed the main airports around Diyarbakır and Malatya, where it continued to snow heavily, leaving survivors in pyjamas, out in the cold.

Faced with this desolation, residents everywhere are gathering and trying to clear the debris with their bare hands, using buckets to remove debris.

Further south, still according to NTV, the Byzantine fortress of Gaziantep, built in VIe century, partially collapsed.

Translation: “In Gaziantep, where my ancestral family came from, the old city citadel has now been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake. It’s nothing compared to the loss of life, but this image is so heartbreaking. »

“It is not possible to say how many people are dead and how many are injured at the moment, because there are so many destroyed buildings,” Kahramanmaras governor said.

A 13th century mosquee The century was partially destroyed in the province of Malta, where a thirteen-story building with 28 apartments collapsed.

On Twitter, Turkish internet users are sharing the identities and locations of people trapped under rubble in several cities in the country’s southeast. More than 50 aftershocks were recorded in Turkey, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD).

The governor of Gaziantep province urged residents to gather outside despite the cold, while the head of the Diyanet, the Turkish public body responsible for overseeing worship, urged Turks to seek shelter in mosques.

The White Helmets call for help

In Syria, cases were recorded in Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city in the north, as well as Hama (centre) and Latakia and Tartus on the Mediterranean coast.

Translation: “Sad! The moment two buildings collapsed in Aleppo after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake [sic] which hit Syria and Turkey. Hundreds of people were reported dead in both countries and many more were under the rubble. The earthquake was felt in Lebanon, Iraq, Armenia and Cyprus. »

Collapses of residential buildings due to illegal construction without solid foundations are common in Aleppo, but heavy fighting during the war that began in 2011 also resulted in structural cracks.

In the rebel-held area, near the border with Turkey, 147 people were killed, according to the first assessment by rescuers, who reported more than 340 injured.

Residents gather in front of the rubble of a collapsed building in Azmari, north of Idlib, Syria, near the border with Turkey (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

In the Ajmarin area of ​​Idlib province, a dozen houses collapsed like houses of cards, an AFP correspondent said. Residents were overwhelmed and helped the rescuers.

The White Helmets, those famous Syrian civilian rescuers, released one communication Calling on the international community to help prevent the deterioration of the situation and rescue civilians.

Translation: “Northwest Syria in disaster after 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Destruction, destruction and collapse of buildings. Hundreds injured, dozens dead, many trapped under rubble or trapped in the winter cold. We call on the international community to act. »

In the village of Zandaris, near the town of Afrin, near the border with Turkey, dozens of rescuers searched for survivors by flashlights.

“Civilian families are trapped under the rubble, we are trying to rescue the dead and the living,” local rescuer Omar Alwan told AFP.

The earthquake caused scenes of panic in northern Syria where residents rushed outside, on foot or in cars, in neighboring Lebanon where tremors were felt strongly, along with heavy rain.

“This earthquake is the strongest since the National Earthquake Center was established in 1995,” Raed Ahmed, director of the Syrian state agency, told the Sanaa agency.

Residents search for survivors amid the rubble of collapsed buildings in Ajmarin, northern Syria, near the border with Turkey, on February 6, 2023 (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
Residents search for survivors amid the rubble of collapsed buildings in Ajmarin, northern Syria, near the border with Turkey, on February 6, 2023 (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

Italy issued a tsunami warning overnight, urging its people to stay away from coastal areas. The warning was lifted after 6:00 AM GMT

The Danish Geological Institute announced Monday that tremors were felt as far away as Greenland.

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