Earthquake strikes southern Turkey, leveling buildings
Feb. 5, 2023 Updated Sun., Feb. 5, 2023 at 8:27 p.m.
ISTANBUL – A powerful earthquake in southern Turkey early Monday leveled residential buildings in nearby Turkish cities and in northern Syria. Video of the aftermath showed residents trapped under rubble, but there was no immediate confirmation of casualties.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake – felt as far away as Lebanon, Jordan and Israel – occurred in Nurdagi, about 40 miles west of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The initial quake was followed by powerful aftershocks.
Turkey’s emergency management agency put the magnitude of the initial earthquake at 7.4 and said the epicenter was in Kahramanmaras province, north of Gaziantep.
Turkish media showed videos of collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey. Syrian state-affiliated media outlets reported that buildings were leveled in the cities of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.
Turkey sits atop the Anatolian Plate, a block of the Earth’s crust that is slowly rotating counterclockwise and shifting west with time, about an inch of movement every year. But pent-up stress caused by collisions with the African plate and Eurasian plate result in frequent earthquakes.
The earthquake began at 4:17 a.m. local time in Turkey.
“Tens of buildings have fallen, the situation is disastrous,” said a spokesman for the White Helmets, a team of first responders in Syria. Speaking from Idlib, he said wounded and dead have been evacuated already, but there isn’t a casualty tally yet. An unidentified number are still stuck under rubble, and civil defense teams are at the highest level of alert, dispatching warnings to people beseeching them to leave buildings and head to open spaces.
“What makes it more dangerous is that the bombing has affected the buildings, which have almost destroyed infrastructure,” said the media team member, who by policy was not willing to be named, referencing past bombardment of rebel-held areas from the Syrian government and its ally Russia.
The head of Damascus’s National Earthquake Center said the most affected areas were Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo provinces, state news agency SANA reported. He beseeched residents who had escaped to the streets to return home if they were not affected, warning that the aftershocks will likely continue but be less extreme.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted in Turkish about 5:30 a.m. local time, “Our search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched.”
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible,” Erdogan added.
Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, tweeted that the “powerful earthquake” hit several cities in the country’s southeast and that its national disaster and emergency management agency, AFAD, is coordinating a response.
“All our ministries and agencies are on high alert,” he said, adding, “Our country has overcome many challenges and we will get through this disaster by working together.”
A member of the Syrian American Medical Association, or SAMS, said the emergency rooms of the organization’s hospitals in northwest Syria were full.
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Dadouch reported from Beirut. The Washington Post’s Kelly Kasulis Cho contributed to this report.
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