Early Monday, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing over 640 people and destroying buildings. The earthquake triggered a search for survivors in the rubble of cities and towns throughout the region. It is expected that the death toll will rise.
Residents in both countries were awakened several hours before dawn by the quake and rushed outside into the cold, rain, and snow. Several buildings in nearby cities were destroyed.
Under the rubble of destroyed buildings, rescue workers and residents searched for survivors in multiple cities across both countries.
Witnesses in the Turkish city of Adana reported hearing one person calling for help from beneath the rubble of a building.
“I don’t have the strength to carry on,” the person reportedly said.
Cranes and rescue teams worked through a pile of pancaked concrete floors that used to be an apartment building in Diyarbakir.
In Syria, the quake destroyed opposition-held areas crowded with approximately 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country due to the country’s ongoing civil war. Many people live in deplorable conditions with inadequate health care.
According to Muheeb Qaddour, a local doctor, at least 11 people were killed in the town of Atmeh, and many more were buried under the rubble.
“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Qaddour said of the rebel-held northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”
The earthquake was felt as far away as Cairo. It was roughly 60 miles from the Syrian border. According to Turkish authorities, at least 20 aftershocks occurred hours after the initial quake, with the strongest measuring a magnitude of 6.6.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Twitter that search and rescue teams had been dispatched to the affected areas.
He wrote, “We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage.”
At least 76 people were killed and 440 were injured in seven Turkish provinces, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency.
According to Syrian state media, the death toll in government-held areas of Syria has risen to 237, with at least 630 injured. According to reports, at least 47 people were killed in rebel-held areas.
Authorities in Turkey urged residents not to drive on the roads, citing traffic jams caused by people attempting to flee the damaged areas, which hampered rescue efforts.
Mosques throughout the region have opened as shelters for people who are unable to return to damaged homes due to freezing temperatures.
In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation as “disastrous,” with entire buildings collapsing and people trapped beneath the rubble. People were advised to evacuate buildings and congregate in open areas by civil defence.
The quake was centred about 20 miles from Gaziantep, according to the US Geological Survey. It was 11 miles deep in the centre.
The earthquake awoke residents in Lebanon as well, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many Beirut residents fled their homes, taking to the streets or driving away from the buildings.
This article has been updated at 15:54. The number of people found dead was updated from 640 to 1500 people.