Ankara/Damascus: More than 2000 people were killed and thousands of others injured after strong earthquakes jolted parts of Türkiye and northwest of Syria early Monday, as local rescuers are battling harsh winter conditions to search for survivors under rubble.
A magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck Türkiye’s southern province of Kahramanmaras at 4:17 a.m. local time (0117 GMT). It was followed by a magnitude-6.4 quake a few minutes later in the country’s southern province of Gaziantep and a magnitude-7.6 earthquake at 1:24 p.m. local time (1024 GMT) in the Kahramanmaras Province.
At least 78 aftershocks were recorded, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has said. The quakes were also felt in Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus.
In Türkiye, 1,121 people were killed, 7,634 injured and 2,824 buildings damaged, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said.
The most serious property damage and loss of lives occurred in the Pazarcik, Elbistan and Turkoglu districts of Kahramanmaras Province, Türkiye’s NTV reported.
In war-torn Syria, the health ministry said at least 371 people were killed and 1,089 others injured in the country, excluding the casualties in the rebel-held areas in Idlib Province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-rebel Britain-based watchdog, said 150 people were killed by the earthquake in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
Soon after the tremors, Türkiye’s state-owned energy company BOTAS suspended natural gas flow to the southern provinces of Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras. The airport in Hatay was damaged and flights were halted.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said there were power outages in the provinces of Antep, Hatay and Kilis, according to Turkish media reports.
People trying to leave the quake-hit areas, causing traffic jams and hampering emergency efforts, the NTV reported.
The temperatures were recorded as minus 10 degrees Celsius in most of the 10 Turkish provinces that were affected by the quakes, which came with rains and snowfall, according to Türkiye’s meteorology agency.
Türkiye’s Defense Ministry has put the Turkish Armed Forces Humanitarian Aid Brigade and transport planes on standby. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, the chief of general staff and the chief of land forces were all heading to the affected areas.
“We dispatched all our search and rescue teams to earthquake zones. We set the highest alert,” Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters.
Ali Yerlikaya, the governor of Türkiye’s largest city Istanbul, said on social media that over 1,000 people, including healthcare workers, four search and rescue dogs, and 30 tonnes of aid materials had been dispatched to the quake-hit region.
Tunc Soyer, mayor of the city of Izmir on Türkiye’s western coast, announced that the municipality’s search and rescue teams, comprised of seven vehicles and 41 people, had been sent to the southeastern province of Osmaniye.
Many Turkish provinces near the quake-hit areas have also sent medical teams and ambulances, according to local media reports.
In Syria, soon after the earthquake, the government set up a 24-hour central operation center led by Prime Minister Hussein Arnous to coordinate earthquake relief operations. All relevant ministries, institutions and authorities were on alert, state news agency SANA reported.
Relief operations were already underway in the central Syrian city of Hama, according to Syrian Interior Minister Muhammad Khaled Rahmoun.
“Rescuers have started to save people from under the rubble, hospitalize the wounded, provide medical help to the wounded, and secure shelters for people whose buildings were damaged,” he said.
Historic sites in Syria were affected. Parts of the Ottoman mill in the Citadel of Aleppo fell and the defensive walls have cracks, said the antiquities and museums directorate.