Earthquake on the border with Syria – many dead
Istanbul The death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria continues to rise. According to official figures, 3,381 people have died in Turkey. More than 20,000 people were injured, the civil protection agency Afad said on Tuesday. More than 5700 buildings collapsed. In Syria According to the Ministry of Health and the rescue organization White Helmets, at least 1477 people died on Monday evening.
The final extent of the disaster was still unclear, numerous people were missing under the rubble. Relatives and rescue workers continued to search for buried people on Tuesday night.
According to the European earthquake monitoring station EMSC, a new earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 shook central Turkey on Tuesday morning. The epicenter was at a depth of two kilometers.
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the population in a televised speech. “As debris removal is still ongoing in many buildings in the earthquake area, we don’t know what the number of dead and injured will be,” he said Erdogan. He declared a week of national mourning.
A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck early Monday morning (local time) for violent shaking in the south of the Turkey as well as in northern Syria. On both sides of the border, residents were woken up by the first tremor several hours before sunrise and rushed outside on a cold and rainy winter night. During several aftershocks, including one with a magnitude of 7.5, numerous television cameras were running and recorded live as houses collapsed.
The shockwaves were felt across Turkey and as far afield as the Balkans and Israel. Regional airports in the cities of Kahramanmaras, Gaziantep and Hatay have been closed, as have numerous roads in the area that have been destroyed. A 1,600-year-old castle in the city of Gaziantep was partially destroyed.
Erdogan described the disaster as the largest earthquake since 1939. According to EU officials, it was one of the strongest in the region for more than 100 years.
Further earthquakes, cold and snow complicate the relief and search operations. Countless people are currently outdoors due to warnings of aftershocks or because their houses and accommodations have collapsed – despite the freezing cold, the aid organization Care reported on Monday in Bonn. Due to the extreme weather and snowfall, many roads are impassable and numerous warehouses and supplies cannot be reached. Turkey asked theirs Nato-Partners around three field hospitals suitable for extreme weather conditions.
According to video recordings, numerous buildings have also collapsed in Syria, and there has also been destruction in refugee camps near the Turkish border. According to unconfirmed information, 250 buildings and 400 houses have collapsed in the north of Aleppo alone. In the rebel stronghold of Idlib, entire settlements have been razed to the ground, drone images show. Other videos show houses collapsing as a result of the aftershocks.
Houses collapse in front of camera in second earthquake
calls for help on social media
Many Turkish people who were still lying under the rubble of their collapsed houses sought help via Twitter. “There are six of us and we don’t know when the debris will collapse around us,” wrote a woman from the town of Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter. Another victim wrote: “I’m trapped under rubble, bleeding and passing out. If nobody helps me, I will die.”
Turkey has received offers of help from more than 45 countries. Among other things, rescue teams, paramedics and reconstruction workers from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, England and Hungary flew to the south-east of the country.
Germany will also help in northern Syria through aid organizations such as Malteser International, the Federal Foreign Office said. A crisis team is to meet in the afternoon to coordinate German aid. “We will set in motion all the help that we can activate,” said Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made similar statements.
The US offered “any help needed.” Countries with which Turkey in particular is at odds also offered support. Old conflicts could thus be softened. Despite severe tensions with Ankara, Greece agreed to send rescue teams to the earthquake area.
Scholz on the earthquake: “We suffer with you”
The two Nato-Members had already helped each other during severe earthquakes in 1999. This aid, known as “earthquake diplomacy”, ushered in a phase of détente. Finland and Sweden also resigned despite the Turkish blockade Nato-Requests help. Israel wants to help Turkey and Syria.
Russia had pledged help to both countries on Monday. In the coming hours, rescue workers from the Russian civil defense are to be flown to Syria, the Kremlin said. The Turkish head of state Erdogan also wants to accept Russian help, according to the Kremlin.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi sent messages of condolence on Monday, state news agency IRNA reported. Tehran is ready to provide immediate assistance. Iran is next Russia the most important ally of the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.
Syria conflict complicates aid
One of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake on Monday night was the Syrian region of Idlib, which is held by rebels. According to observers, this should make emergency aid more difficult there. Just a few months ago, the governments in Ankara and Damascus announced that they were negotiating an end to the diplomatic ice age.
A common fate could now bring the two countries together. In northern Syria, the Turkish government has long been fighting for a buffer zone and financial support for the resettlement of refugees. International donors have struggled to transfer money to rebel-held areas.
Turkey is repeatedly affected by severe earthquakes. Two of the largest continental plates meet there: the African and the Eurasian. In fact, most of the Turkish population lives in constant danger of earthquakes.
In October 2020, more than 100 people died in Izmir in one of the most serious earthquakes in recent years. In 1999, Turkey was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in its history: a magnitude 7.4 earthquake in the region around the north-western industrial city of Izmit claimed the lives of more than 17,000 people. Experts are also expecting a strong earthquake in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, in the near future.
With material from dpa and Reuters.