A powerful 7.8 earthquake struck large areas of southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday. At least 2,300 people were killed. The number of dead and injured will likely increase as rescue workers continue to search through the remains of destroyed buildings.
The earthquake was centered 23 kilometers east of Nurdagi in the Turkish province of Gaziantep. It struck at 4:17 in the morning local time.
Many aftershocks have hit the area since the first quake. In addition, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.5 struck nine hours later a little more than 100 kilometers away.
On the Syrian side, the affected area includes rebel-controlled territory, where buildings have already been weakened from fighting in the country’s civil war. The opposition-held areas in Syria contain about 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 45 countries have offered to help his country in the rescue efforts. He said that over 2,800 buildings in Turkey had collapsed.
“Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise,” Erdogan said.
A hospital in Turkey collapsed. And in Syria, patients including newborn babies were taken out of medical centers.
In Turkey, people tried to flee affected areas by car, slowing efforts of emergency teams trying to enter the areas. Religious buildings in the affected areas were opened to provide shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes in the cold winter weather.
In the Syrian rebel-held town of Jandaris in Aleppo province, a pile of concrete, steel rods and clothes lay where a building once stood. "There were 12 families under there. Not a single one came out. Not one," said one young man.
Monday’s powerful earthquake was felt as far away as Cairo, Egypt. People living in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, were awakened by the quake. And in Syria’s capital Damascus, locals rushed into the street fearing the collapse of buildings.
The Syrian White Helmets is a rescue service in rebel-held territory known for pulling people from the ruins of buildings destroyed by air strikes. The group said they were in "a race against time to save the lives of those under the rubble".
Madevi Sun-Suon, is a spokesperson for the U.N. office for coordinating humanitarian affairs in northwestern Syria. She said, "We have been dealing with weather events and snowstorms but nothing on the scale of an earthquake of this magnitude. It just adds on to all the layers of suffering," she said.
Syrian state television showed images of rescue teams searching for survivors as icy rain fell. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held an emergency cabinet meeting to go over the damage and discuss the next steps, his office said.
Turkey sits on top of an area of major fault lines. The country is often shaken by earthquakes. About 18,000 people were killed in a similarly powerful earthquake that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.
I'm Andrew Smith.
Andrew Smith adapted this story for VOA Learning English from reporting by The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
magnitude -n. a measure of the amount of energy released by an earthquake
displace -v. to move people or objects out of one place and into another
debris -n. pieces or material from something that has been destroyed
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