Earthquake Hits Turkey
After one of the worst earthquake disasters in recent decades, several thousand deaths are to be feared in southern Turkey and northern Syria. The number of victims was at least 2,500 by the early evening, and the actual extent is not yet foreseeable, as hundreds of people are probably still buried.
According to the Turkish disaster service Afad, the main earthquake in the morning, with the epicentre in Kahramanmaras in southern Turkey, had a magnitude of 7.7.
A 7.5-magnitude tremor shook the same region at noon, according to the Kandilli earthquake station in Istanbul. The earth also shook in Lebanon and Iraq and on the nearby Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of the strongest earthquake since 1939. According to EU representatives, it was one of the strongest in the region in more than 100 years.
Rescue workers and local residents are desperately searching for survivors under the rubble. At least 1,651 people died in Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced in the evening. The death toll also rose in Syria.
In the disaster area, where millions of civil war refugees from Syria have sought shelter, temperatures are around freezing. According to aid organizations, thousands have become homeless in both countries.
According to Vice President Fuat Oktay, 3,471 buildings collapsed in Turkey, and people are asked to spend the night outside because of the acute danger of further collapses. According to the White Helmets in Syria, more than 133 buildings have collapsed, and 272 have been partially destroyed.
The Syrian government called on the international community for help. The Foreign Ministry in Damascus addressed its appeal to UN member states and international aid agencies to support efforts “to deal with this human catastrophe,” state agency SANA reported.