Over 900 dead, more than 5,000 injured in Turkey's 'worst disaster since 1939'

At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said

By Agencies

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Published: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 6:10 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 2:39 PM

At least 912 people were killed and more than 5,000 people were injured due to a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck central Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Erdogan said it was the country's largest disaster since 1939, adding that 2,818 buildings collapsed as a result.


In Syria, at least 237 people were killed and 639 injured, Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported, citing a Health Ministry official.

In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus. Further east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once an apartment building.


On the Syrian side of the border, the quake smashed regions that are packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of Syria by the country’s long civil war. Many of them live in decrepit conditions with little health care. Rescue workers said hospitals in the area were quickly filled with the injured.

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“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor, said by phone from the town of Atmeh, referring to the entire rebel-held area. Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets, the emergency organization in opposition areas, said whole neighbourhoods were collapsed in some areas.

The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, struck a region that has been shaped by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. Millions of Syrian refugees live in Turkey. The swath of Syria affected by the quake is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. The quake was centred about 90 kilometres (60 miles) from the Syrian border outside the city of Gaziantep, a major Turkish provincial capital.

At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency said at least 76 people in seven Turkish provinces. The agency said 440 people were injured. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 237 with more than 630 injured, according to Syrian state media. At least 47 people were reported killed in rebel-held areas.

Buildings were reported collapsed in a cross-border swath extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometres (200 miles) to the northeast.

In Turkey, people trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic jams, hampering efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. Authorities urged residents not to take to the roads. Mosques around the region were being opened up as a shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes amid temperatures that hovered around freezing.

The quake heavily damaged Gaziantep’s most famed landmark, its historic castle perched atop a hill in the centre of the city. Parts of the fortresses’ walls and watch towers were levelled and other parts heavily damaged, images from the city showed.

In Diyarbakir, rescue teams called for silence as they tried to listen for survivors under the wreckage of an 11-story building. Rescue workers pulled out one man, carrying him on a stretcher through a dense crowd of hundreds of people anxiously watching the rescue efforts. A gray-haired woman wailed before being escorted away by a man, while a rescue worker wearing a white helmet tried to calm a crying girl, who was also being cuddled by two friends.

The Syrian Civil Defence described the situation there as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble.

In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were brought to a hospital.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was centred about 33 kilometres (20 miles) from Gaziantep. It was centred 18 kilometres (11 miles) deep.

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear. The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

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