On Monday, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Turkey and Syria, causing thousands of buildings to collapse and trapping residents beneath mounds of rubble. The death toll has already surpassed 2,300, and authorities fear the number will continue to climb as rescuers search for survivors.
The quake, which was centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo and Beirut. In Turkey, people trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic jams, hampering emergency teams. In Syria, the quake added new woes to the opposition-held enclave centered on the province of Idlib, which has been under siege for years.
Offers of help — from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money — poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO. Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir.
Rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras, and in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa, a multistory apartment toppled face-forward onto the street, disintegrating into rubble and raising a cloud of dust as bystanders screamed. In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household belongings, and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors.
The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Bitterly cold temperatures could reduce the time frame that rescuers have to save trapped survivors, while the difficulty of working in areas beset by civil war only complicates rescue efforts.
The quake has caused great suffering in an already war-torn region. As night fell, people in Gaziantep sought shelter in shopping malls, stadiums and community centers, while mosques around the region were opened to provide shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes.
Monday’s earthquake has been devastating for Turkey and Syria, and the death toll continues to climb. Offers of help from around the world have poured in, but the rescue and recovery efforts are being hampered by the frigid temperatures and the war-torn region. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragedy.