Earthquake kills over 1,700 in Turkey, Syria; second massive quake follows

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in southern Turkey early Monday killed more than 1,700 people across the country and in neighboring Syria, officials said, as rescuers searched flattened buildings in frigid weather for survivors. The earthquake — felt as far away as Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt — occurred in Kahramanmaras province, north of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border.

It was followed by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in southeastern Turkey on Monday afternoon, as well as dozens of powerful aftershocks. Most of the damage is in southern Turkey and northern and central Syria.
Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. A hospital collapsed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Iskenderun, but casualties were not immediately known, his vice president, Fuat Oktay, said.
  • At least 1,014 people were killed and more than 7,000 injured in Turkey alone, the country’s disaster agency said.
  • In Syria, 371 people were reported killed and 1,089 injured in government-controlled regions, mostly in Latakia, Hama, Aleppo and Tartus, according to state media.
  • The death toll in rebel-held northwestern Syria is at 380, a representative of the Syrian Civil Defense said, and is expected to rise. Some 1,000 civilians were injured, with hundreds stuck under rubble and dozens of buildings collapsed, it said.
  • The quake could be the largest recorded in the region, which sits on an earthquake-prone belt known as the Anatolia fault, one seismologist said.

In northwest Syria, tens of thousands were directly affected by the earthquake, the International Rescue Committee said. “Freezing temperatures have left thousands exposed to extreme cold, and now many are without shelter,” a statement read.

Most hit were areas hosting many displaced and vulnerable families. Snowstorms had just struck the area. Hospitals are overstretched following a recent cholera outbreak.

Some 9,000 emergency responders are now taking part in search and rescue operations across Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted Monday. He also said 45 nations, as well as NATO and the European Union, have offered Turkey assistance, without giving further specifics.

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations body that promotes nuclear safety, offered the agency’s technical support to Ankara. Turkey has hosted U.S. nuclear weapons for more than 50 years, though there is no suggestion from officials that the arsenal was affected by Monday’s earthquake.