Massive earthquake claims 2,700 lives in Turkey and Syria

Earthquake collapses buildings in Kahramanmaras, Turkey February 6, 2023.
Earthquake collapses buildings in Kahramanmaras, Turkey February 6, 2023. Ihlas News Agency (IHA) via Reuters

A massive earthquake that struck a large portion of Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday claimed more than 2,700 lives, and the frigid winter weather made matters worse for the thousands of people who were left injured or homeless, and hampering rescue attempts.

Millions of Syrians who had been uprooted by years of conflict suffered even more destruction as a result of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which also knocked down entire apartment buildings in Turkish cities.

“It was like the apocalypse,” said Abdul Salam al-Mahmoud, a Syrian in the northern town of Atareb. “It’s bitterly cold and there’s heavy rain, and people need saving.”

The second earthquake, which was powerful enough to knock down additional buildings and was felt throughout the area like the first, put rescue workers who were attempting to extricate victims from the wreckage in peril.

A lady standing close to the rubble of her seven-story apartment building in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey, said: “We were shaken like a cradle. There were nine of us at home. Two sons of mine are still in the rubble, I’m waiting for them.”

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She suffered bruises on her face and was nursing a broken arm.

The quake was the largest recorded globally by the US Geological Survey since an earthquake in the distant South Atlantic in August 2021.

According to Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, there were 1,651 fatalities and 11,119 injuries.

According to data from the Damascus government and rescuers in the insurgent-controlled northwest of the country, at least 1,073 individuals were killed in Syria.

Bad weather worsens plight

It occurred in bad weather before sunrise and was immediately followed by another large earthquake in the early afternoon.

Conditions for those buried in debris or left homeless were anticipated to get worse as some locations experienced nighttime temperature drops close to freezing. After weekend snowstorms blanketed the country, rain began to fall on Monday.

Attempts to analyze and mitigate the effect were hampered by poor internet connections and damaged roads linking some of the worst-affected cities in the south of Turkey, which are home to millions of people.

The number of fatalities from an earthquake in Turkey has already reached its greatest level since 1999, when a tremor of a comparable magnitude ravaged the densely populated eastern Marmara Sea area close to Istanbul, killing more than 17,000 people.