Rescuers search for victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Diyarbakir, Turkey, in this video taken from AFP TV on February 6, 2023.
Mahmut Bojarslan | AFP | Getty Images
A powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling buildings and sending panicked residents outside into a bitterly cold night. At least 31 were killed, and the toll was expected to rise.
Rescue workers and residents search by torches for tangled metal and concrete debris in one of the flooded towns. Inside a partially collapsed apartment building, people standing in the street shouted for others who were leaning dangerously close.
The earthquake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep, about 90 kilometers (60 mi) from the Syrian border. Along with several cities, the region is home to millions of Syrian refugees who fled their country’s long-running civil war. Turkey, which borders Syria to the north, hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world.
On the Syrian side of the border, the earthquake rattled opposition-held areas that are filled with several million displaced Syrians, with a shattered health care system after years of war. At least 11 people were killed in Atmad, a town, and many others were buried under the rubble, a doctor in the town, Muhib Kaddor, told The Associated Press by phone.
“We fear the death toll is in the hundreds,” Kaddor said, referring to the rebel-held northwest. “We are under immense pressure.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to areas affected by the quake.
He wrote, “We hope that we will overcome this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least loss.”
There were at least 6 aftershocks, and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu urged people not to enter damaged buildings because of the risk.
“Our priority is to rescue people trapped under the damaged buildings and shift them to hospitals,” he said.
Various officials’ tallies put the number of dead at least 18 in Turkey and 13 in Syria. Governor Hulusi Sahin said at least 130 buildings had collapsed in Turkey’s Malta province.
In northwest Syria, the opposition Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held area as “catastrophic”, saying entire buildings had collapsed and people were buried under rubble. Civil Defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas. The emergency rooms were filled with the injured, Ras said.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 mi) from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered at a depth of 18 kilometers (11 mi), and a strong aftershock of magnitude 6.7 occurred approximately 10 minutes later.
Syrian state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.
In Damascus, buildings began to shake and many people took to the streets in fear.
The earthquake jolted residents out of bed in Lebanon, buildings shook for about 40 seconds. Many Beirut residents fled their homes and took to the streets or drove away from buildings in their cars.
The quake occurred as the Middle East is experiencing a snow storm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
Turkey lies on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
About 18,000 people were killed in the powerful earthquakes that struck northwest Turkey in 1999.