Over 1,200 people died in Türkiye and Syria as hundreds of buildings collapsed in the areas hit by an earthquake of 7.8-degree magnitude with its epicenter in the border city of Gaziantep. Rescue teams were searching for people trapped under the rubble. Humanitarian aid was reported on its way from various parts of the world. There were a total of 22 aftershocks, some of them strong.
The main tremor, which was felt in neighboring Lebanon and Cyprus, and also in Israel, was followed by a 6.7 quake. In addition to the more than 1,000 fatalities, some 2,300 others were reported injured.
In Türkiye alone, 912 people lost their lives. and more than 5,300 people were injured, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday. More than 2400 people have been rescued from the rubble, he also said. Weather conditions hampered rescue efforts, Erdogan said.
We hope to get through this disaster together in the shortest possible time and with the least possible damage, Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
The affected provinces are currently experiencing sub-zero temperatures, with snow falling in some areas. Türkiye's Vice President Fuat Otkay also pointed out that nearly 900 buildings collapsed in the provinces of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.
Officials in Syria first mentioned 239 casualties, but later reports said the death toll rose to more than 380, while some 1,300 people were injured, according to Deputy Health Minister Ahmed Dhamirijeh, as well as the aid organization SAMS, which works in rebel-held areas of the country.
The tremor was felt at 4.17 am local time (1.17 am GMT) at a depth of 17.9 kilometers, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The epicenter was located in the district of Pazarcik, in the province of Kahramanmaras, in southeastern Türkiye, about 60 kilometers from the Syrian border.
Shortly after the first impact, another 6.7 magnitude quake struck central Türkiye, according to the USGS. This earthquake had a depth of 9.9 km and occurred about eleven minutes after the 7.8 magnitude quake.
Syrian National Center of Seismic Observatory Director Raed Ahmed explained that the episode had occurred far from the sea and on a land mass. Hence, a tsunami was ruled out. It was also reported to be the strongest earthquake recorded by Syrian systems in nearly three decades. Ahmed also said it was the strongest quake in Syria since 1995.
According to Türkiye's disaster control authority Afad, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Türkiye early Monday morning. The epicenter was located in the province of Kahramanmaras near the Syrian border. Another quake with a magnitude of 6.6 was measured shortly afterward in the Gaziantep province, it said. In an updated assessment, the Potsdam Geo Research Center gave the magnitude as 7.8 and 6.7. The quake was also felt in Israel, according to official figures.
One of the most momentous quakes in recent years killed more than 100 people in Izmir in October 2020. In 1999, Türkiye was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in its history: A magnitude 7.4 quake in the region around the northwestern industrial city of Izmit claimed the lives of more than 17,000 people. Experts also expect a strong quake soon in Türkiye's largest city, Istanbul.
Türkiye has requested rescue and recovery teams through the so-called EU Civil Protection Mechanism, according to the Interior Ministry. Humanitarian aid for Syria is to be provided via international organizations.