More than 2,000 dead in Turkey, Syria after earthquake, powerful aftershocks

Rescue teams search for victims in the rubble after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria Monday. Photo by Syria Civil Defense / UPI

Feb. 6 (UPI) — A powerful earthquake and an aftershock that was nearly as strong hit southern Turkey and northern Syria Monday, killing more than 2,000 and leaving nearly 10,000 injured in ongoing rescue and recovery efforts.

Turkey’s disaster response agency said 1,498 people have been reported killed by the earthquake and aftershocks, in what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling its worst disaster since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake. More than 8,500 have been listed as injured, officials said.

The initial earthquake registered at 7.8-magnitude at a depth of 11 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The focus on the quake that happened in the Pazarcik district, affected Kahramanmar as along with Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay and Kilis.

One of the aftershocks was measured at 7.5 magnitude 2.5 miles south-southeast of Ekinozu.

The death toll in the government-controlled areas of Syria reached 430 people with more than 1,280 injured. Officials in the non-government-controlled region of northwest Syria reached at least 380 and “many hundreds” injured.

Syria has suffered through more than a decade of civil war in the region, which made confirming casualties more challenging.

Yunus Sezer, head of the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency in Turkey, said there have been 130 aftershocks since the original earthquake with 2,834 buildings collapsed as of late Monday.

“Our state has taken action with all its institutions since the earthquake,” Erdogan said, according to the Anadolu Agency. “All resources have been mobilized.”

In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden directed the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal partners to assess the White House’s response to aid those affected.

“The United States is profoundly concerned by the reports of today’s destructive earthquake in Turkey and Syria,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the government of Turkey.”

Biden said Monday he has authorized an “immediate U.S. response” to the earthquake and has authorized his administration to reach out to their counterparts in Turkey to coordinate search and rescue efforts.

“Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake,” Biden said in a White House statement.

“U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria. Today, our hearts and our deepest condolences are with all those who have lost precious loved ones, those who are injured, and those who saw their homes and businesses destroyed.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken share his condolences and guaranteed a committed effort to assist in the tragedy.

“Our initial assistance response to Turkey is already underway, and U.S.-supported humanitarian organizations in Syria are responding to the earthquakes’ effects across the country,” Blinken said in his statement. “We are determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also promised a response from his organization if needed.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims,” Guterres said on Twitter. “The U.N. stands ready to support emergency response efforts.”

The humanitarian organization Syria Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets, has worked to confirm deaths in areas that the Syrian government does not control and has called for heavy rescue equipment.

The USGS had estimated that there is a 47% chance the death toll could reach as high as 10,000 and economic losses could be as much as 2% of Turkey’s GDP.

The earthquake’s epicenter was the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras Province, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency said, with provinces being impacted hundreds of miles away.

Gov. Salih Ayhan of Sanliurfa Province tweeted that buildings were destroyed by the “severe and long-lasting” earthquake. In Malatya, the government reported “serious destruction” in its capital city.

In Gaziantep Province, Gov. Davut Gul tweeted that the earthquake was “severely” felt in the provincial capital.

“Please, let’s wait without panicking,” he urged via Twitter. “Let’s not use our cars. Let’s leave the main roads empty. Let’s not keep the phones busy.”

The Disaster and Emergency Management Agency said the country has called upon Europe’s Emergency Response Coordination Center for help with urban search and rescue.

Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya announced that nearly 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel will be dispatched from Turkey’s largest city to affected regions, with the first group having already departed.


Local hospitals were overwhelmed with patients filling hallways, the Syrian American Medical Society said, saying many of its facilities were full.

“There is an immediate need for trauma supplies and a comprehensive emergency response to save lives and treat the injured,” it said in a statement.

Some hospitals, including Al Dana Hospital, were forced to evacuate after being damaged by the temblor.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has called an emergency meeting of council minsters to evaluate the extent of the damage, his office said in a statement.

The civil defense group has called on the international community in a statement to “shoulder its responsibilities” amid the civil war in Syria and prevent the situation from worsening by supporting rescue efforts and “putting pressure on the Assad regime and its Russian ally in a way the ensures that there is no bombing in these areas.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said he’s ordered the Israel Defense Forces and his office to “prepare immediately” to provide Turkey with emergency aid through its Home Front Command.

The Netherlands will also send an urban search-and-rescue team, including police, military personnel, first aid responders and firefighters, foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Twitter.

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said Berlin was standing ready to provide assistance.

Italy is also warning of a possible tsunami for its coastal areas, urging residents to move to higher ground.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here