7.8 magnitude earthquake kills at least 237 in Turkey and Syria

Iurkey and Syria trembled again. The death toll in Syria from the earthquake, whose epicenter is in Turkey, has risen to 237 dead and 639 injured, the Syrian Ministry of Health announced on Monday (February 6th). A previous toll reported 111 dead in areas under Syrian regime control, while the number of victims in rebel-held areas is not yet known. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and neighboring Syria at dawn on Monday.

For the only areas under the control of the Syrian regime, the balance sheet rises to 111 dead and 516 injured, according to the Ministry of Health. The victims were recorded in Aleppo, the second Syrian city in the north of the country, as well as in Hama (center) and Latakia and Tartous, on the Mediterranean coast. The collapse of residential buildings is quite common in Aleppo due to illegal construction without solid foundations but also cracks in the structures caused by heavy fighting during the war that broke out in 2011.

In the areas controlled by the rebels, close to the border with Turkey, no overall assessment was available at first. At least eight people died in the collapse of numerous buildings in the localities of Azaz and Al-Bab, close to the Turkish border, a hospital source told Agence France Presse. Near the town of Azaz, the Agence France-Presse correspondent saw rescuers pull five bodies from the rubble of a three-story house that collapsed on top of its inhabitants.

Partially collapsed buildings in Syria

The governor of Gaziantep province called on residents to gather outside as the first aftershocks hit. The tremors were felt in Lebanon and Cyprus, according to correspondents from Agence France-Presse. In the locality of Azmarine, in the rebel province of Idleb, a dozen houses collapsed like a house of cards, reported a correspondent from Agence France-Presse. Residents were helping rescuers who were overwhelmed.

In the village of Jandaris, near the town of Afrin close to the border with Turkey, dozens of rescuers searched for survivors by the light of flashlights. Adana city mayor Zeydan Karalar said two 17- and 14-storey buildings were destroyed, according to TRT. Buildings were also destroyed in many cities in the south-east of the country, including Adiyaman, Diyarbakir and Malatya, according to the private Turkish channel NTV, raising fears of victims.

Syrian state television reported that a building near Latakia, on Syria’s west coast, collapsed after the quake. Pro-government media said several buildings partially collapsed in Hama, central Syria. Civil defense and Syrian firefighters are at work to extract possible victims from the rubble.

Strongest earthquake since 1995

“All our teams are on alert. We have issued a level four alarm. It is a call, including for international aid,” Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told the Haberturk channel. Turkish rescuers and civil defense as well as Syrian firefighters were at work on Monday morning to try to extract possible victims from the rubble, according to local media.

The earthquake caused scenes of panic in northern Syria where residents rushed outside, on foot or by car, despite the torrential rains, as well as in neighboring Lebanon where the tremors were strongly felt. “This earthquake is the strongest since the national earthquake center was founded in 1995,” said the director of this Syrian state body, Raed Ahmad, to the Sana agency.

Turkey is located in one of the most active seismic zones in the world. At the end of November, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, injuring around 50 people and causing limited damage, according to the Turkish emergency services. This same region of the North-West had been hard hit in August 1999 by an earthquake of magnitude 7.4, which caused the death of 17,000 people, including a thousand in Istanbul.

In January 2020, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the eastern provinces of Elazig and Malatya, killing more than 40 people. In October of the same year, a magnitude 7 earthquake in the Aegean Sea killed 114 people and injured more than 1,000 in Turkey.

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