More than 4,300 people have died and rescuers are racing to pull survivors from beneath the rubble after a devastating earthquake ripped through Turkey and Syria, leaving destruction and debris on each side of the border.
One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the region in a century shook residents from their beds at around 4 a.m. on Monday, sending tremors as far away as Lebanon and Israel.
In Turkey, at least 2,921 people were killed and more than 15,800 others injured, according to Turkey’s head of disaster services, Yunus Sezer.
In neighboring Syria, at least 1,451 people have died. According to the Syrian state news agency SANA, 711 people have died across government-controlled areas, mostly in the regions of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia, and Tartus.
The “White Helmets” group, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, reported 740 deaths in opposition-controlled areas. Much of northwestern Syria, which borders Turkey, is controlled by anti-government forces amid a bloody civil war that began in 2011.
The epicenter of the 7.8-magnitude quake was 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers (14.9 miles), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.
A series of aftershocks have reverberated throughout the day. The largest, a major quake that measured 7.5 in magnitude, hit in Turkey about nine hours after the initial quake, according to the USGS. That aftershock hit around 95 kilometers (59 miles) north of the original.
Video from the scene in Turkey showed day breaking over rows of collapsed buildings, some with apartments exposed to the elements as people huddled in the freezing cold beside them, waiting for help.
A host of countries have sent rescue workers to help the stricken region, where a colossal effort to find and free trapped civilians is underway. A cold and wet weather system is moving through the region, further hampering that challenge.
Monday’s quake is believed to be the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when an earthquake of the same magnitude killed 30,000 people, according to the USGS. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world. Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years – but Monday’s is the most powerful.
Karl Lang, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech University’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, told CNN the area hit by the quake Monday is prone to seismic activity. “It’s a very large fault zone, but this is a larger earthquake than they’ve experienced any time in recent memory,” Lang said.
“We cannot use the buildings anymore. Maybe for hours. Maybe until tomorrow. I don’t know,” Dr. Mazen Kewara, Turkey director of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), told CNN from near the earthquake’s epicenter in Gaziantep, where he and his family were taking shelter in their car.
“Next to my building, about 200-300 meters, there’s a collapsed building. There are many buildings that have collapsed in Gaziantep,” said Kewara.
Whole city blocks were destroyed following the powerful earthquake in southern Turkey on February 6, 2023.