A frantic search for survivors as quake death toll tops 3,000
By MURAT GURES, SAFAK TIMUR, BEN HUBBARD and RAJA ABDULRAHIM
Rescuers in Turkey and Syria were desperately combing the rubble in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake collapsed thousands of buildings, killed at least 3,000 people and raised the specter of a new humanitarian disaster in an area of the world already wracked by war, a refugee crisis, deep economic troubles and near-freezing temperatures.
The initial magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit at 4:17 a.m. local time Monday, according to the United States Geological Survey, and was also felt in Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon. Dozens of aftershocks, including an unusually strong 7.5 magnitude tremor, struck Turkey in the aftermath, the USGS said.
The initial earthquake, centered near Gaziantep in south central Turkey, was the deadliest to hit the country in more than 20 years and was as strong as that of 1939, the most powerful ever recorded in Turkey.
Here are other key developments:
— Almost 3,000 buildings collapsed across Turkey alone after the initial quake, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. At least 1,760 people died and 5,000 people were injured. “We do not know where the number of dead and injured can go,” he said.
— About 1,250 people in Syria were also reported dead in the northwestern part of the country. Turkey also hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, the most in the world from that conflict, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which runs one of its largest operations from Gaziantep.
— Videos shared on social media from Turkey and across the border in Syria showed destroyed buildings and rescue crews searching through piles of rubble for survivors. Some people fled their homes in the rain and took shelter in cars in near-freezing temperatures.
— Governments around the world quickly responded to Turkey’s request for international assistance, deploying rescue teams and offers of aid.
— Earthquakes occur frequently in Turkey, which sits on fault lines. Recent quakes in the region have caused deadly landslides.