TURKEY/ SYRIA: A rescue operation is underway across much of southern Turkey and northern Syria following a huge earthquake that has killed more than 4,300 people.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook both nations early on Monday and caused entire apartment buildings to collapse destroyed hospitals, and injured or left hundreds homeless.
Sub-zero winter weather hindered search efforts for survivors all night long and into Tuesday.
In the southern province of Hatay, a woman could be heard pleading for assistance under a heap of debris. A small child’s lifeless body was nearby.
Overnight temperatures dropped almost to freezing, making things worse for many homeless or trapped under debris. Families in Kahramanmaras, to the north of Hatay, huddled together around fires and covered themselves in blankets to be warm.
The quake, followed by a series of aftershocks, was the largest one the U.S. Geological Survey has ever recorded on a global scale since a temblor in the remote South Atlantic in August 2021.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said that 2,316 people had died in Turkey, making it the nation’s deadliest earthquake since a similar-magnitude quake in 1999 that killed over 17,000 people. In Monday’s earthquake, more than 13,000 injuries were reported.
According to data from the government in Damascus and rescue workers in the insurgent-controlled northwest of the country, at least 1,444 people were killed, and about 3,500 were injured in Syria.
Attempts to assess and handle the impact were hampered by poor internet connections and wrecked roads linking some of the worst-hit cities in the south of Turkey, which are home to millions of people.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is gearing up for a challenging election in May, described the earthquake as a “historical disaster” and stated that officials were doing everything they could to help.
“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts, although the winter season, cold weather, and the earthquake happening during the night make things more difficult,” the president said. Forty-five nations, he claimed, had offered to assist with search and rescue operations.
Rescuers in the Turkish city of Iskenderun scaled a massive mound of wreckage that once housed the intensive care unit of a public hospital to find survivors. Health professionals did their best to treat the new influx of injured people.
In Syria, the damage caused by more than 11 years of civil war made the effects of the earthquake even worse.
A senior U.N. humanitarian official said that the organization’s ability to help is also being hurt by harsh winter weather and fuel shortages.
In a video shared on Twitter from the government-controlled city of Aleppo, two neighbouring structures can be seen collapsing one after the other, covering the streets in billowing dust.
Two local residents of the city, which sustained significant damage during the war, said buildings had collapsed in the hours following the earthquake, which was felt as far away as Cyprus and Lebanon.
Raed al-Saleh, a member of the Syrian White Helmets, said that they were in “a race against time to save the lives of those under the rubble.” The Syrian White Helmets are a rescue group in rebel-held territory that is known for pulling people out of the wreckage of buildings that airstrikes have destroyed.
Also Read: Turkey-Syria Earthquake Kills over 350 and Collapses over 2000 Buildings