Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: More than 3,600 dead
Nfter several severe earthquakes on Monday in the Turkish-Syrian border region, the number of dead has risen to at least 3,600. According to previous information, around 15,000 people in Turkey and Syria were injured. In the disaster area, where millions of civil war refugees from Syria have sought shelter, temperatures are around freezing.
In Turkey, more and more dead are being recovered after the devastating earthquakes. The Turkish civil protection agency Afad gave the number of deaths in its own country on Monday evening as 2,316. Thousands of buildings collapsed in the tremors in south-east Turkey alone. Completely destroyed streets could be seen on videos from several cities.
According to the Ministry of Health and the rescue organization White Helmets, at least 1,300 people died in Syria on Monday evening. More than 2,200 people were injured in the disaster in the civil war country. In view of the many buried people, the number of deaths will continue to rise.
According to the European earthquake monitoring center EMSC, a new heavy earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 shook central Turkey on Monday afternoon. Syrian state media, meanwhile, reported tremors in the Syrian capital Damascus just hours after the main 7.8 magnitude tremor struck southeast Turkey early Monday morning. According to the civil protection agency Afad, the epicenter was in the province of Kahramanmaras near the Syrian border. Another earthquake measuring 6.6 was measured shortly afterwards in the province of Gaziantep. The Turkish civil protection authority reported 66 aftershocks on Monday morning.
Strongest earthquake in Syria since 1995
An entire block of houses collapsed in the Syrian province of Idlib. Photos showed rescue teams taking people away on stretchers. The head of the National Earthquake Center, Raed Ahmed, said this was the strongest earthquake to hit Syria since 1995, according to the Syrian state news agency Sana.
The rescue organization White Helmets, for its part, spoke of dozens of deaths. “We are responding with everything we can to rescue those who are under the rubble,” said group leader Raed Al Saleh. “The situation is very tragic,” said one member of the group.
In Syria, heavy rain and sleet made rescue work difficult. Health authorities urged the population to take casualties to emergency facilities. The injured are arriving in large numbers, a representative of the health authorities in Aleppo told the Reuters news agency by phone. A White Helmet representative said scores of people would have to stay outdoors in the winter cold. There were reports from Turkey of injured people who were hoping for the rescue of relatives in front of the rubble of their houses.
Ahmed Siradj, a 35-year-old construction worker who lives in the small town of Taftanaz in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province, rushed to the house where his brother, his wife and three children live after shaking his terror from his limbs. Since then he has fought on several fronts. “I have to find shelter for my family and look for my brother at the same time,” Ahmed reported via Whatsapp early Monday afternoon. “We’re still digging in snow and debris,” he says. And even in the early evening there is still no sign of life. “I’m trying not to lose hope,” says Ahmed, still waiting for help to come.
According to the interior minister and the head of the national civil protection agency, several provinces in Turkey have been affected. More than 2,800 buildings were destroyed, including a hospital in the city of Iskenderun. According to the newspaper “Hürriyet”, a historic castle collapsed in Gaziantep. Rescue teams from all over the country would be brought together, said the Turkish interior minister. In addition, alarm level four was declared and international help was requested. Among other things, Turkey asked its NATO partners for three field hospitals and staff suitable for extreme weather conditions.