Earthquake Turkiye, Syria: At least 200 people died

ANKARA, Turkey –

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria early Monday morning, destroying buildings and triggering a frantic search for survivors among the rubble in cities. streets and towns throughout the region. At least 207 people were killed and hundreds injured, and the number is expected to rise.

On both sides of the border, residents were deprived of sleep by tremors a few hours before dawn and rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night. Dozens of buildings collapsed in cities across the border region.

Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of crumbling buildings in many cities on both sides of the border, through tangles of metal and concrete.

In the Turkish city of Adana, witnesses said they heard a person calling for help from beneath the rubble of a building. “I don’t have the strength to continue,” the person cried. Farther east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams worked at a mountain of concrete floors that was once an apartment building.

On the Syrian side of the border, the earthquake destroyed areas held by the opposition, where some 4 million people have been displaced from other parts of Syria due to the country’s protracted civil war. Many of them live in squalid conditions and receive little health care. At least 11 people were killed in one town, Atmeh, and many others were buried in the rubble, a doctor in the town, Muheeb Qaddour, told The Associated Press by phone.

“We fear the death toll is in the hundreds,” Qaddour said, referring to the rebel-held northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”

The epicenter of the quake was about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from Cairo, just north of the city of Gaziantep, a major Turkish provincial capital of more than 2 million people. The region has been shaped by more than a decade of war in Syria. Millions of Syrian refugees live in Turkiye. The area affected by the earthquake in Syria is divided into government-controlled and opposition-controlled areas.

Turkish authorities said at least 20 aftershocks occurred several hours later in the day, the strongest being 6.6 magnitude.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the earthquake-stricken areas.

“We hope that together we will get through this disaster as soon as possible and with the least amount of damage,” he wrote.

Turkiye Emergency and Disaster Management Agency said at least 76 people in seven provinces of Turkey. The agency said 440 people were injured. According to Syrian state media, the death toll in government-controlled areas of Syria has risen to 111 with at least 516 people injured. Previously, 20 people were believed to have been killed in rebel-held areas.

Buildings are reported to have collapsed across a stretch from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkiye’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 mi) northeast.

In Turkiye, people trying to leave the quake-hit area caused traffic jams, hampering the efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. Authorities urged residents not to go out into the streets. Mosques around the area have been opened to shelter those unable to return to their damaged homes as temperatures hover around freezing.

In Diyarbakir, rescue teams called for silence as they tried to listen to survivors under the rubble of an 11-story building. Rescuers pulled a man out, carrying him on a stretcher through a crowd of hundreds of people anxiously watching the rescue effort. A gray-haired woman cries before being escorted away by a man, while a lifeguard wearing a white helmet tries to calm a crying girl, who is also being hugged by two friends hamlet.

In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense Forces described the situation in the rebel-held area as “catastrophic” and added that entire buildings had collapsed and people trapped under the rubble. The civil defense force urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas. Amjad Rass, president of the Syrian American Medical Association, said emergency rooms were full of injured people.

The US Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was about 33 kilometers from Gaziantep. Its center is at a depth of 18 kilometers (11 mi).

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people took to the streets in fear.

The quake startled residents in Lebanon from their beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many Beirut residents have left their homes and taken to the streets or drove away from buildings.

The quake comes as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue through Thursday.

Turkiye lies on major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.

About 18,000 people were killed in the strong earthquakes that hit northwestern Turkiye in 1999.

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