More than 560 killed as 7.8-magnitude earthquake hits Turkey

More than 560 people have been killed overnight in a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria that levelled buildings while many were still asleep.

Tremors from the deadly quake – which lasted about a minute – were felt as far away as Egypt, Lebanon and the island of Cyprus, while a tsunami warning was briefly issued by authorities in Italy along the country’s coast.

Residents fled from their homes in terror in cities across southeast Turkey and northern Syria, taking shelter in cars fearing aftershocks and collapsing buildings.

Concerns grew for people trapped under the rubble as thousands of rescue workers jumped into action, searching through destroyed buildings for survivors.

The quake – which could be Turkey’s largest ever on record – was centred north of Gaziantep, Turkey, which is about 60 miles from the Syrian border and has a population of bout 2 million. The region is home to large numbers of Syrian refugees.

The quake struck at 04:17 am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 11 miles, the US Geological Survey said. A strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later. Turkey’s own agency said 40 aftershocks were felt.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency said the earthquake killed scores of people in seven Turkish provinces. The agency said 440 people were injured. Turkey’s Vice President later confirmed that the death toll had risen to 284 and said that 2,323 people had been injured.

Meanwhile, at least 237 have been killed and around 639 injured in Syria, with the victims mostly in Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus and Hama, Syrian officials say.

In Aleppo alone, 24 people had died and 100 were injured when 20 buildings collapsed in the province, the official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official in the province.

At least 47 people were said to have been killed in rebel-held areas in Syria, bringing the overall death toll from the massive quake to over 560.

The White Helmets said the earthquake has ‘resulted in hundreds of injuries, dozens of deaths, and people being stranded in the winter cold’.

The death toll across the region is expected to climb as rescue teams work through the night to find people trapped under collapsed buildings.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that ‘search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched’ to the areas hit by the devastating quake.

‘We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,’ he wrote on Twitter.

At least 1,000 volunteer rescue workers have been deployed in they country.

There were at least six aftershocks and he urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

‘Our priority is to bring out people trapped under ruined buildings and to transfer them to hospitals,’ he said.

In Aleppo alone, 24 people had died and 100 were injured when 20 buildings collapsed in the province, the official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official in the province.

Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo, Syria’s pre-war commercial hub, often collapsed due to the dilapidated infrastructure after more than a decade of war as well as little oversight to ensure the safety of new construction projects, some built illegally.

SANA said the earthquake was felt from the western coast of Latakia to Damascus.

‘This earthquake is the strongest since the National Earthquake Centre was founded in 1995,’ Raed Ahmed, who heads the centre, told SANA.

Near the border town of Azaz, an AFP correspondent saw rescuers pull out survivors as well as five bodies out of the rubble of a three-storey building that crumbled.

Rescue workers and residents using flashlights were searching through piles of tangled metal and concrete rubble in one of the stricken cities.

People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.

In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed.

‘I don’t have the strength anymore,’ one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus.

Further east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once an apartment building.

Other countries expressed their concern over the quake.

Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser, tweeted that the United States was looking for ways to assist.

‘The U.S. is profoundly concerned by today’s destructive earthquake in Turkiye & Syria,’ he said, using the newly-adopted official U.S. government spelling of Turkey.

‘I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any & all needed assistance.

‘We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye.’

Samantha Power, the head of USAID, said they were looking at how best to assist.

‘Deeply concerned about the earthquake that just struck Turkiye & Syria,’ she tweeted. ‘It’s one of the most powerful to hit Turkiye in 100 yrs, and the human toll, including on already displaced Syrians, will be devastating.

‘@POTUS has directed @USAID to assess how we can help those impacted.’

India’s leader, Narendra Modi, also offered support.

‘Anguished by the loss of lives and damage of property due to the Earthquake in Turkey,’ he tweeted.

‘Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.

‘India stands in solidarity with the people of Turkey and is ready to offer all possible assistance to cope with this tragedy.’

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky also offered his war-torn country’s support.

‘Shocked by the news about the death and injury of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey,’ he tweeted on Monday morning.

‘We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. We are in this moment close to the friendly Turkish people, ready to provide the necessary assistance.’

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s most senior diplomat, said that the 27-country bloc was ready to help the devastated countries.

‘Devastating earthquake rocked Türkiye and Syria this morning, claiming the lives of hundreds of people and injuring many more,’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘Our thoughts are with the people of Türkiye and Syria. The EU is ready to help.’

Fared Al Mahlool, a local journalist based in Syria, tweeted video showing collapsed houses and people scrabbling through the rubble.

‘Here in the city of Salqin in rural Idlib, Syria,’ he wrote.

‘We hit a violent earthquake and destroyed everything. Buildings destroyed and people under rubble.’

One U.S.-based Turkish citizen, Eren Bali, tweeted footage showing collapsed buildings in his hometown of Malatya.

‘Southeast Turkey was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that lasted 90 seconds,’ he said.

‘Over 100 buildings were reported to have collapsed in my home town alone (Malatya).’

Unverified images from Hatay appeared to show a family being dragged out of the rubble of a collapsed home, amid heavy snowfall.

The same Twitter user posted another clip showing a boy being rescued.

Another person shared what he said was footage from Gaziantep, showing burst water pipes flooding the streets.

Source: BBC


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