The most powerful earthquake in nearly a century struck Turkey and Syria Monday, killing nearly 2,300 people in their sleep, levelling buildings and causing tremors felt as far away as Greenland. The 7.8-magnitude early morning quake, followed hours later by a slightly smaller one, wiped out entire sections of major Turkish cities in a region filled with millions who have fled the civil war in Syria and other conflicts. Rescuers used heavy equipment and their bare hands to peel back rubble in search of survivors, who they could in some cases hear begging for help under the rubble. The initial quake was followed by more than 50 aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue work on Monday afternoon.
Here are the latest updates:
Erdogan declares week-long mourning for quake victims
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday declared seven days of national mourning for the victims of an earthquake that killed at least 2,600 people in his country and neighbouring Syria.
“A national mourning period has been declared for seven days. Our flag will be hoisted at half-mast until sunset on Sunday, February 12, 2023, in all our national and foreign representative offices,” Erdogan said in a tweet.
WHO says quake toll liable to rise significantly
The death toll from Monday’s major earthquake in Turkey and Syria is liable to rise significantly above the provisional tally of more than 2,600, the World Health Organization forecast.
“There’s continued potential of further collapses to happen so we do often see in the order of eight fold increases on the initial numbers,” the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, told AFP.
“We always see the same thing with earthquakes, unfortunately, which is that the initial reports of the numbers of people who have died or who have been injured will increase quite significantly in the week that follows,” Smallwood added.
Biting mid-winter temperatures and blizzard conditions rendered the rescue extra difficult and put at risk survivors left without shelter.
“For other people who can’t go back to their homes they will be meeting and gathering in collective environments. And that will also pose particular risks if they’re not well catered for, if there’s no heating, but also due to overcrowding,” said Smallwood.
One such risk would be circulation of respiratory viruses, she explained.
Syria requests international aid
The Syrian government on Monday urged the international community to come to its aid after more than 800 people died across the country following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in neighbouring Turkey.
“Syria appeals to member states of the United Nations… the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian” groups to support “efforts to face the devastating earthquake”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
U.S. help underway: Blinken says
The United States is already responding after a huge earthquake hit central Turkey and northwest Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
“Our initial assistance response to T”.O1/4rkiye is already underway, and U.S.-supported humanitarian organizations in Syria are responding to the earthquakes’ effects across the country.
We are determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead,” Blinken said in a statement.
Dead toll rises to over 2,300
The combined death toll rose to more than 2,300 for Turkey and Syria on Monday from the region’s strongest earthquake in nearly a century.
Turkey’s emergency services said at least 1,498 people had died in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, with another 810 confirmed fatalities in neighbouring Syria, putting the total at 2,308.
Death toll rises over 1,900
The combined death toll has risen to over 1,900 for Turkey and Syria after the region’s strongest quake in nearly a century on Monday.
Turkey’s emergency services said at least 1,121 people died in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, with another 783 confirmed fatalities in Syria, putting that toll at 1,904.
UK sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists
The UK will immediately send emergency response specialists, dogs and equipment to Turkey following the earthquake there, foreign minister James Cleverly said Monday.
Cleverly tweeted: “The UK is sending immediate support to Turkey including a team of 76 search & rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.”
The foreign ministry said the team would arrive late Monday at Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey.
‘People under rubble’
Images on Turkish television showed rescuers digging through rubble across city centres and residential neighbourhoods of almost all the big cities running along the border with Syria.
Some of the heaviest devastation occurred near the quake’s epicentre between Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, where entire city blocks lay in ruins under the gathering snow.
A famous mosque dating back to the 13th century partially collapsed in the province of Maltaya, where a 14-story building with 28 apartments housed 92 people also collapsed.
In other cities, social media posts showed a 2,200-year-old hilltop castle built by Roman armies in Gaziantep lying in ruins, its walls partially turned to rubble.
“We hear voices here – and over there, too,” one rescuer was overheard as saying on NTV television in front of a flattened building in the city of Diyarbakir.
“There may be 200 people under the rubble.”
783 dead in Syria: New toll
At least 783 people were killed Monday across Syria following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that had its epicentre in southwestern Turkey, the government and rescuers said.
The Syrian health ministry said the death toll rose to “1,284 injured and 403 dead in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Tartus” – all government-controlled areas.
The White Helmets rescue group that operates in rebel-held areas of the war-torn country said “the death toll from the earthquake in northwestern Syria has risen to more than 380 and more than 1,000 injured”.
Pope ‘deeply saddened’ by quake in Turkey, Syria
The Vatican said Monday that Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” by a major earthquake in Turkey and Syria that has killed more than 1,600 people.
“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the huge loss of life caused by the earthquake… he sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected,” wrote the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a statement.
Adana Airport closed for flights
The airport in the southern Turkish province of Adana was closed for flights until further notice following major earthquakes in the area on Monday, the private Demiroren news agency said.
No further details were immediately available.
WHY TURKEY IS PRONE TO EARTHQUAKES
Turkey sits on the Anatolian tectonic plate, which is located between the Eurasian, African and Arabian plates. Quakes and tremors are common in the country as the major Eurasian and African plates shift.
More than 22,000 have been recorded in 2022 in Turkey, which is located near several fault lines. The last major earthquake was on October 23, 2011, when a magnitude 7.2 one rocked southeast Turkey, killing more than 600 people.
According to the BBC, Gaziantep earthquake hit in a region of instability called the East Anatolian fault. Though this fault is very dangerous, there hasn’t been any major seismic activity for over 100 years.
Baniyas oil refinery suspends operations
Syria’s Baniyas oil refinery will suspend operations for 48 hours following a deadly earthquake in Turkey, state news agency SANA reported on Monday citing an oil ministry statement.
560 killed across Syria
At least 560 people were killed across Syria after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck neighbouring Turkey before dawn on Monday, the government and rescue workers said.
The official news agency SANA, citing the health ministry, said at least 339 people were killed and 1,089 injured in government-controlled areas of the war-torn country. The White Helmets rescue group said at least 221 were killed and 419 injured in rebel-held areas.
Second earthquake of magnitude 7.5 hits Turkey
An earthquake of 7.5 magnitude struck the Central Turkey region on Monday, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said.
It occurred at a depth of 7 km, AFAD said adding that the epicenter of the quake was Elbistan region of Kahramanmaras province. Earlier on Monday a major quake struck the same region, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
Tremor reported in Dohuk, Erbil and Mosul
Residents in the Iraqi provinces of Dohuk and Mosul and the Kurdish capital Erbil reported feeling a light tremor, state media reported on Monday, following an earthquake in Syria.
Turkey death toll climbs to 912
Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan says 912 people have been killed in Turkey alone, and 5,383 wounded, due to the earthquake.
He adds that he can’t predict how much the death toll will rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
Turkey declines Musk’s offer to send Starlink
The Turkish government declined Elon Musk’s proposal to send a satellite broadband service to the country after the strongest earthquake to hit the country in decades.
Musk said on Twitter that one of his companies, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., could provide the Starlink network as soon as approved by the Turkish government.
A senior Turkish official thanked the multi-billionaire for the proposal but said Turkey had enough satellite capacity. The country has base stations working with batteries though electricity cannot be provided to some areas, the person said.
Turkish military sets up air aid corridor
The Turkish armed forces have set up an air corridor to enable search and rescue teams to reach the zone affected by the major earthquake in southern Turkey, the country’s defence ministry said on Monday.
“We mobilised our planes to send medical teams, search and rescue teams and their vehicles to the earthquake zone,” the statement cited Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying.
Footage from the Syrian border town of Azaz – an area held by opposition forces – showed a rescue worker carrying a toddler from a damaged building.
“The situation is very tragic, tens of buildings have collapsed in the city of Salqin,” a member of the White Helmets rescue organisation said in a video clip on Twitter, referring to another town about 5 km (3 miles) from the Turkish border.
Homes were “totally destroyed”, said the rescuer on the clip, which showed a street strewn with rubble.
President Bashar Al Assad was holding an emergency cabinet meeting to review the damage and discuss the next steps, his office said.
Death toll in Turkey soars to 284
he death toll has risen to 284 from an earthquake which shook Turkey’s south early on Monday, with 2,323 people injured, Vice President Fuat Oktay told a news conference.
He said 70 people were killed in the province of Kahramanmaras, where the quake epicenter was located, along with 20 people in Osmaniye, 18 in Sanliurfa, 14 in Diyarbakir and 13 in Adiyaman.
India ready to provide help
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that India is ready to provide all possible help to the earthquake-affected people in Turkey.
“We are all looking at the destructive earthquake that hit Turkey. There are reports of the deaths of several people as well as damage. Damages are suspected even in countries near Turkey. The sympathies of the 140 crore people of India are with all earthquake-affected people,” Modi said.
“India is ready to provide all possible help to the earthquake-affected people,” he added.
Pakistan offer condolences
President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday extended condolences to Turkey and Syria over the loss of lives from a massive earthquake. In their separate messages, both expressed grief and conveyed sympathies to the governments and people of the quake-hit Turkey and Syria.
President Alvi said, “In this hour of grief, I and the Pakistani nation stand in solidarity with the people of Turkey and Syria.” Prime Minister Sharif also extended his profound condolences and sincere sympathies to the leadership and people of the two countries on the human and material loss.
The Foreign Office in a statement also expressed grief over the loss caused by a severe earthquake. “Pakistan stands ready to extend all possible support in the relief effort. We are confident that the resilient Turkish nation will overcome this natural calamity with characteristic grit and determination,” it said.also
At least 100 people killed in Turkey
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency said the 7.8 magnitude earthquake has killed at least 100 people were killed in seven Turkish provinces. The agency said 440 people were injured.
At least 130 buildings tumbled down in Turkey’s Malatya province, neighboring the epicenter, Gov. Hulusi Sahin said. In the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, at least 15 buildings collapsed.
The news was announced as rescuers scrambled in areas across southeast Turkey to search for people trapped in toppled apartment blocks and other buildings. Suleyman Soylu, the Turkish interior minister, called the shock a “devastating earthquake” and said the armed forces were assisting civilian agencies in the rescue effort.
More than 230 dead in Syria
At least 237 people were killed in government-held areas of Syria on Monday after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that had its epicentre in southeastern Turkey, the health ministry said.
“Six hundred and thirty-nine people were injured and 237 were killed in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus,” the ministry said in a statement. “516 injuries and 111 deaths recorded in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus,” the ministry said in a statement.
Earlier, a hospital said the earthquake had killed at least eight people in the northern areas controlled by pro-Turkish factions – bringing the war-torn country’s total to at least 245 dead.
White House offers US assistance on quake
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan says he has told Turkish officials the United States is ready to provide assistance to help with the earthquake rescue effort. In a tweet, Sullivan said the US was “profoundly concerned by today’s destructive earthquake” in Turkey and Syria.
“I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with (Turkey),” Sullivan said.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy offers help
The president of war-torn Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has sent a message of support to Turkey to offer assistance in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday.
“I am shocked to learn of deaths and injuries of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey,” Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet. “We send our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. At this time, we stand by the friendly Turkish people and are ready to provide the necessary assistance.”
UAE issues advisory to Emiratis
The UAE embassy in Ankara has urged Emiratis currently present in Turkey to be extra cautious following the earthquake that hit southern Turkey.
The embassy today advised Emiratis in Turkey to stay away from earthquake-affected areas and follow instructions issued by competent authorities for their own safety.
In case of any emergency, Emiratis can contact the embassy on +97180044444.
Rescue workers search for survivors
Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of crushed buildings in multiple cities on both sides of the border. In one quake-struck Turkish city, dozens pulled away chunks of concrete and twisted metal. People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.
The quake struck at 04:17 am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres (11 miles), the US agency said, with a 6.7-magnitude aftershock striking 15 minutes later.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) put the magnitude of the quake at 7.4 near Kahramanmaras and the larger city of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border. The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported a series of further earthquakes following the initial tremor, which it put at a magnitude of 7.8. There was a quake measuring 6.7 in Gaziantep and another of 5.6 in the city’s Nurdag area.
The German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) said the quake struck at a depth of 10 km (6 miles), while the EMSC monitoring service said it was assessing the risk of a tsunami.
Tremors were also felt in the Turkish capital of Ankara, 460 km (286 miles) northwest of the epicentre, and in Cyprus, where police reported no damage.
‘People under rubble’
Images on Turkish television showed rescuers digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep, where entire sections of cities were destroyed.
A fire lit up the night sky in one image from Kahramanmaras, although its origin remained unclear.
Buildings also crumbled in the cities of Adiyaman, Malatya and Diyarbakir, where reporters saw panicked people rush out on the street. A famous mosque dating back to the 13th century partially collapsed in the province of Maltaya, where a 14-story building with 28 apartments also collapsed.
In other cities, anguished rescuers struggled to reach survivors trapped under the debris. “We hear voices here – and over there, too,” one rescuer was overheard as saying on NTV television in front of a flattened building in the city of Diyarbakir. “There may be 200 people under the rubble.”
A total of 42 aftershocks have been felt in the two hours since the quake first struck at 4.17 am local time, according to Turkey’s ministry of interior disaster and emergency management.
The ministry issued a statement, saying: As of 6:30am, a total of 42 aftershocks, the largest of which was 6.6, were experienced.”
The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep in an area about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border.
Focus on search and rescue
The tremor lasted about a minute and shattered windows, according to a Reuters witness in Diyarbakir, 350 km (218 miles)to the east, where a security official said at least 17 buildings collapsed.
Authorities said 16 structures collapsed in Sanliurfa and 34 in Osmaniye.
Broadcasters TRT and Haberturk showed footage of people picking through building wreckage, moving stretchers and seeking survivors in Kahramanmaras, where it was still dark.
“Our primary job is to carry out the search and rescue work and to do that all our teams are on alert,” Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters.
“The earthquake struck in a region that we feared. There is serious widespread damage,” Kerem Kinik, the chief of the Turkish Red Crescent relief agency, told Haberturk, issuing an appeal for blood donations.
CNN Turk television said the quake was also felt across parts of central Turkey and the capital Ankara.
Many buildings destroyed
Kahramanmaras Governor Omer Faruk Coskun said it was too early to estimate the death toll because so many buildings were destroyed.
“It is not possible to give the number of dead and injured at the moment because so many buildings have been destroyed,” Coskun said. “The damage is serious.”
Victims stuck under rubble
Syrian civil defence operating in rebel-held areas said on Monday that a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey and northern Syria had left “tens of victims and people stuck under the rubble” of collapsed buildings in the country’s north-west.
The civil defence, known as the White Helmets, said in a post on Twitter that the volunteer group was working to rescue survivors.
Television images showed shocked people standing in the snow in their pyjamas, watching rescuers dig through the debris of damaged homes.
Rescue teams dispatched: Erdogan
“I convey my best wishes to all our citizens who were affected by the earthquake,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage.”
The earthquake levelled dozens of buildings across major cities of southern Turkey as well as neighbouring Syria, a country gripped by more than a decade of violence that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of people.
I convey my best wishes to all our citizens who were affected by the earthquake.
– Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President
Turkey and Syria earthquake: In Pictures
People search through rubble following an earthquake in Diyarbakir, Turkey on February 6, 2023 in this still image taken from video.
Image Credit: Reuters
A young injured girl awaits treatment at a hospital follwoing an earthquake, in the border town of Azaz in the rebel-held north of the Aleppo province early on February 6, 2023.
Image Credit: AFP
Rescuers work amid the rubble from collapsed and damaged buildings following an earthquake, in Hama, Syria, February 6, 2023.
Image Credit: Sham FM/Handout via Reuters
A man walks past by a collapsed building after an earthquake in Malatya, Turkey February 6, 2023.
Image Credit: Reuters
Syrian rescuers retrieve and injured man from the rubble of a collapsed building follwoing an earthquake, in the border town of Azaz in the rebel-held north of the Aleppo province, early on February 6, 2023.
Image Credit: AFP
Rescuers work at the site of a damaged building, following an earthquake, in rebel-held Azaz, Syria February 6, 2023.
Image Credit: Reuters
The tremors were felt in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus, according to AFP correspondents.
Syrian state television reported that a building near Latakia, on the west coast of Syria, had collapsed.
Pro-government media said several buildings had partially collapsed in Hama, central Syria, with civil defence and firefighters working to pull survivors out of the rubble.
In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.
The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.
The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
Raed Ahmed, who heads Syria’s National Earthquake Centre, told pro-government radio that this was “historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre”.
Magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck at a depth of 10
Magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and had an epicenter near the town of Gaziantep, according to a report from GFZ Helmholtz Centre Potsdam.
The quake, one of the strongest to hit the region in more than 100 years, struck 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) east of Nurdagi, Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers (14.9 miles), the US Geological Survey said.
Multiple strong aftershocks have been felt across the region, including as far away as Lebanon and Israel.
Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 – the worst to hit Turkey in decades.
That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.
Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.
A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.
And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.