A powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake earlier on Monday killed more than 1,700 people in Turkey and northern Syria as people searched for survivors amid the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference that at least 912 people were killed and around 5,400 were injured in Turkey. He said he couldn’t predict how much those numbers would climb as the search continued, with at least 2,800 buildings down.
Syrian health officials said at least 326 people had died in government-held areas, while aid workers said at least 100 had died in rebel-held areas.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu said there were more than 20 aftershocks in total after the initial quake before dawn. He said the earthquake affected at least 10 provinces and he and other cabinet officials would travel to those areas.
The quake’s epicenter was near Gaziantep, an important industrial and manufacturing center near the Turkey-Syria border. The earthquake destroyed the historic Antep Castle and many other historic buildings in the area.
In the Turkish city of Mersin, resident Nurhan Kilar told VOA’s Turkish service that the quake lasted a minute.
“We woke up with tremors and got out of bed. Debris fell from the chimney. Debris fell from the spaces between the buildings. It was horrible,”
Kilar said. Hospitals in Syria, the Syrian American Medical Association said. “The corridors were filled with patients.”
“Many hospitals were overcrowded, but some key facilities, including Al Dana Hospital, had to evacuate patients after being severely damaged by the earthquake,” the association said in a statement. “The Adeleb Maternity Hospital was forced to transfer all newborns to a nearby hospital.”
The European Union said it was sending a rescue team to the area, with aid workers from the Netherlands and Romania “already on the way”.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Schulz, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said their governments were ready to help those affected by the quake.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted: “Greece is mobilizing resources and will help immediately.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that at the request of the Turkish government, Search and rescue teams and medical assistance will go to Turkey.
Russia also said its rescue teams were traveling to Turkey to help earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said President Biden directed USAID and other federal partners to “evaluate America’s response options to help those most affected.”
Sullivan said, “The United States is deeply concerned about reports of a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria today. We stand ready to provide any and all assistance needed.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also offered support.
“Deeply shocked to learn of the hundreds of casualties in the earthquake in Turkey,” Zelensky tweeted. “We express our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. At this time, we stand with the friendly Turkish people and are ready to provide the necessary help.”
Turkey is located in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world.
In 1999, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake near Duzce in northwestern Turkey was the worst earthquake to hit Turkey in decades, killing 17,000 people.
In October 2022, an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the Aegean Sea, killing 116 people and injuring more than 1,000 others. All but two of the victims are in Izmir, Turkey.