On Monday, a tremendous 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey, killing over 1,800 people in the nation and neighboring Syria, with dozens more buried in the wreckage when another big temblor struck the region.
Residents joined rescuers in the frigid circumstances to look for survivors, with the death toll anticipated to grow as the extent of wreckage from the initial violent pre-dawn temblor became known.
The earthquake shocked people awake and rattled buildings across the Middle East, with vibrations felt as far away as Egypt and Cyprus. A 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck the same area just hours later, raising the prospect of a new humanitarian crisis in a country scarred by years of conflict.
According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, at least 1,121 people have died and 7,634 have been injured.
In Syria, where over 4 million people had been displaced as a result of nearly 12 years of civil war, hundreds more were crushed to death in structures that had already been demolished or weakened by shelling.
The quake struck a region of northwest Syria that is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last rebel-controlled pocket. Turkey is home to millions of conflict refugees.
According to the country’s health ministry, at least 371 people were killed and 1,089 were injured in government-controlled areas. Members of the opposition emergency organization known as the White Helmets reported the earthquake killed at least 380 people and injured 1,000 more in opposition-held areas.
The combined death toll across the two borders now stands at at least 1,872, with fears that it might grow far further.
Volunteers dug amid mangled metal and concrete for victims trapped in the rubble in the dead of night, with only helmet spotlights to guide them through very cold and rainy winter weather.
According to rescue workers, the injured flocked to overcrowded health institutions and hospitals.
“Freezing temperatures have left thousands exposed to extreme cold, and now many are without shelter. With buildings collapsing as people slept, there are fears that hundreds still remain trapped in rubble,” the International Rescue Committee aid group said.
The United States said it was “profoundly concerned” about the quake in Turkey and Syria and was monitoring events closely,
“I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.
The U.S. is profoundly concerned by today’s destructive earthquake in Turkiye & Syria. I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any & all needed assistance. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye.— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) February 6, 2023
Turkey is located on major fault lines and is frequently rattled by earthquakes; 18,000 people were killed in strong earthquakes that struck northwest Turkey in 1999.