A powerful earthquake struck southern Turkey near the Syrian border early Monday, causing aftershocks that were felt as far away as Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq, and Egypt.
The quake killed at least 641 people and injured hundreds more, according to the Associated Press. Several buildings have collapsed across the border region.
According to the US Geological Survey, the 7.8 magnitude quake’s epicentre was about 33 kilometres (20 miles) from Gaziantep. It was centred at a depth of 18 kilometres (11 miles).
According to the Associated Press, at least 284 people were killed in seven Turkish provinces, citing Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency. According to the agency, 440 people were injured. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria has risen to 237, with more than 630 injured, according to the Associated Press, citing Syrian state media. According to the White Helmets, at least 120 people were killed in rebel-held areas.
Images shared on social media from southern Turkey and northeast Syria showed families fleeing in the rain or snow amid the rubble of collapsed buildings. The earthquake was strong enough in Lebanon to cause entire buildings to sway.
The earthquake also hit northeast Syria, causing several buildings to collapse. Local journalists’ footage showed panicked families running through the rain and darkness among the wreckage of destroyed homes.
“The situation is truly disastrous,” Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets civil defence group in northern Syria, told NPR. He claims that cities and villages in northern Syria are under attack. “In all of these areas, buildings have collapsed and teams are working to repair them. And under the rubble of all of these structures are people. All of the hospitals are completely full. The situation is downright tragic.
“We don’t know how much damage has been done or how many people have been killed,” he said. He claimed to have seen three collapsed buildings “with families under the rubble” on his way to the group’s operations room. As he coordinates the larger search and rescue mission, rescue teams assist them.
“Because of the damage, I’m requesting that people stay outside their homes in the streets. It may not be safe for them to stay at home because these structures may collapse. However, there is a storm brewing with rain and snow.”
According to Hamid Qutayni, a White Helmets rescue worker, “tens of families” are trapped beneath collapsed buildings. He listed the number of people known to have died in various towns and villages. “Sarmada has seven deaths, Ma’arrat Misrin has two, and Darkush has three deaths, one of which is a child.
Three children have died in Deres, and villages in the northern Aleppo countryside, as well as the Idlib countryside, have reported deaths. Because the situation is so dire, reports are pouring in from all over.”
The earthquake in northern Syria struck areas of the country already devastated by more than a decade of civil war. The war has already severely damaged basic infrastructure in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. Millions of Syrians have fled the fighting in other parts of the country to live in the area. Many people live in refugee camps or basic tented settlements set up among the olive groves that line the border with Turkey.
“So far, our hospitals in northwest Syria have received 91 dead and treated more than 500 severely injured victims of the earthquake,” according to the Union Of Medical Care And Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an organisation that provides health care in rebel-held areas of Northwest Syria. Four of us areHospitals were damaged and had to be evacuated. The survivors are overwhelmed.
Jomah al Qassim, a Syrian living in the Turkish town of Gazientep, works for the Bahar Organization, a charity that operates in both Syria and Iraq.
“According to our team in Syria, there are numerous casualties and building damage. Many people have been reported dead “He told NPR about it. “This is the last thing people in Syria need. Crisis after crisis has occurred. People are already tired.”
According to the United Nations monitoring agency, OCHA, 4.1 million people in northwest Syria require humanitarian assistance out of a population of 4.6 million. More than three million people in the region are food insecure.
The conflict has severely damaged the region’s hospitals. Idlib is located outside of the government-controlled areas of Syria.
Syria. Its hospitals have been repeatedly bombed by the Syrian regime’s air force or its ally Russia. The airstrikes have been so frequent that doctors and aid organisations have set up underground medical facilities to protect themselves from the attacks.