On Monday, February 6th at 4:17 a.m. local time, a deadly earthquake hit Turkey's Gaziantep province. The initial magnitude 7.8 earthquake has now killed more than 30,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces due to the rising death toll.
The earthquake demolished several apartment complexes, obliterated hospitals, and tens of thousands were left injured or homeless. The earthquake also ravaged a 2,000-year-old Turkish castle that withstood centuries of invasions. Gaziantep Castle was a lookout point during the Hittite Empire, then fortified during the Roman Empire and expanded under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. The earthquake was the largest ever recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey since a tremor in the remote South Atlantic in August 2021.
Turkish authorities say about 13.5 million people were affected in an area spanning about 450 km (280 miles). At least 55 earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 or greater have struck near Turkey's Syrian border after the original 7.8 earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. "It's now a race against time," World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. "Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes."
The earthquake in northern Syria hit parts of the country that had already been devastated by more than a decade of civil war. Millions of Syrians who fled fighting live in refugee camps or basic tented settlements built among the olive groves that run along the border with Turkey.
The weather has also proved to be a difficult factor concerning rescue team efforts in Turkey. The country had been preparing for a snowstorm, with Turkish Airlines canceling more than 200 flights for Sunday and Monday because of anticipated conditions. Temperatures fell to near freezing overnight, worsening conditions for people suffocating under rubble or left homeless. Those without a home tried to sleep in their cars, which blocked the roads and made it even more difficult for rescue personnel to reach the injured.
In Turkey, mosques opened as shelters and welcomed those who can't go home. Turkey's Interior Disaster Ministry says it has deployed over 9,600 searches and rescue personnel to look for potential survivors. One United Nations official said it was feared thousands of children may have been killed.
More than 40 world leaders offered aid and assistance, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some of these countries include Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Pakistan, and even war-torn Ukraine, Turkey’s ally.
President Biden issued a message saying he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation" in Turkey and Syria. Biden said in a tweet that he has directed his administration to monitor the situation closely and "provide any and all needed assistance."
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that an aid response "is already underway." And in Syria, he added, humanitarian groups that are supported by the U.S. are also responding to the earthquake emergency there.
Photo taken from Reuters
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