LIVE: Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have killed over 2,500 people

Published February 6, 2023 at 6:48 AM EST
People working under a spotlight dig through rubble.
Khalil Hamra
/
AP
Emergency team members search the rubble of a destroyed building Monday in Adana, Turkey, where darkness has fallen.

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It's now well into the evening in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, where a 7.8 quake and its aftershocks have killed more than 2,500 people and sent thousands of buildings crashing to the ground. Darkness adds new challenges to rescue workers' efforts.

Here's what we're following:

More U.S. search and rescue teams are heading to Turkey, White House says

Posted February 6, 2023 at 1:45 PM EST

American officials are working closely with Turkey to respond to the earthquake, says John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications.

Kirby kicked off a Monday afternoon briefing by offering condolences to Turkey and Syria and saying the Pentagon and USAID are coordinating with their Turkish counterparts on how to respond to the "fluid" situation.

The U.S. already has personnel on the ground and will be deploying "additional teams, including two 79-person urban search and rescue teams" to support Turkish efforts, Kirby added.

The U.S. is among the many countries sending personnel, supplies and other forms of aid to Turkey.

Context

Here's how this earthquake compares to other recent disasters

Posted February 6, 2023 at 1:31 PM EST
An aerial view shows search and rescue operations at collapsed 15-story building after earthquakes Monday in Kahramanmaras, Turkey.
Halife Yalcinkaya
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
An aerial view shows search and rescue operations at a collapsed 15-story building after earthquakes Monday in Kahramanmaras, Turkey.

The series of temblors that struck Turkey and Syria today included two earthquakes in a nine-hour span that measured higher than 7 in magnitude.

The damage is already drawing comparisons to a 1999 earthquake that killed an estimated 17,000 people and left more than 500,000 homeless. In October 2011 another powerful quake in southeast Turkey killed more than 600 people.

Turkey's earthquakes have proved to be some of the world's deadliest, but it's not the only region to experience major seismic activity in the last two decades.

Here's a look at some of the deadliest earthquakes in recent history, with the most recent death count numbers as reported by Reuters:

  • September 2018 — a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami killed more than 4,300 people in Indonesia.
  • April 2015— a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed roughly 9,000 in Nepal.
  • March 2011 — a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami killed roughly 15,600 people in Japan's northeast. The earthquake also triggered a major nuclear disaster.
  • January 2010 — a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, left 316,000 dead.
  • May 2008 — a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in China's Sichuan province killed 87,600 people.
  • October 2005 — a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan left 73,000 dead.
  • December 2004 — A 9.15 magnitude earthquake off Sumatra set off a tsunami that hit Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lank and others, leaving roughly 230,000 dead or missing.

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the tsunami in Indonesia was 1.5 meters.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria surpasses 2,500, the AP reports

Posted February 6, 2023 at 1:04 PM EST
Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building in Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Monday evening.
Remi Banet
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AFP via Getty Images
Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building in Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Monday evening.

More than 2,500 in Turkey and Syria have died as a result of Monday's earthquake, the Associated Press reported shortly before 1 p.m. ET. It's already well into the evening in both countries, adding darkness to the rescue workers' challenges.

Citing Turkish authorities, it says more than 1,600 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, and more than 11,000 were injured.

At least 919 people have died throughout Syria, the AP reports. Syria's Health Ministry says more than 539 people were killed in government-held areas, while groups in the rebel-held northwest say the death toll is at least 380. Collectively, there are reports of thousands of Syrians injured.

International Dispatch

Israel will aid with earthquake rescue, a sign of warming ties with Turkey

Posted February 6, 2023 at 12:49 PM EST

An Israeli military search and rescue team is departing Monday for Adana in Turkey to help with earthquake rescue efforts, reflecting warming ties between Israel and Turkey after years of tension.

Israel is also sending medicine, blankets and tents to earthquake victims in Syria, an Israeli official told NPR, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject of Syria. That was following a request from Russia, Israeli media report.

To aid Turkey, the Israeli military is sending 150 active-duty and reservist soldiers, plus firefighters and rescue teams, to map out sites hit by the earthquake and conduct search and rescue missions. Israel’s army frequently sends rescue delegations around the world following natural disasters.

“We see this as an honor to send a hand out to our friends in Turkey,” Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht told reporters. “The scale is one of the biggest we’ve seen since Haiti,” where the Israeli military sent a search and rescue team to help the earthquake victims in Haiti’s quake in 2010.

Turkey and Israel exchanged ambassadors last year after a decade of cold ties between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — an advocate of the Palestinians — and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s part of Turkey’s efforts to forge better relations with regional heavyweights including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Israel’s efforts to improve its relations in the region.

“You can see the relationship is getting closer,” Hecht said.

More than 50 earthquakes have hit southern Turkey in just 24 hours

Posted February 6, 2023 at 12:26 PM EST
A map shows the locations of at least 55 earthquakes of 2.5 magnitude or higher that have hit an area in southern Turkey along its border with Syria in the past 24 hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The red lines depict fault zones in the region.
U.S. Geological Survey
A map shows the locations of at least 55 earthquakes of 2.5 magnitude or higher that have hit an area in southern Turkey along its border with Syria in the past 24 hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The red lines depict fault zones in the region.

There has been no peace for survivors and rescue crews in the hours after an intense earthquake hit southern Turkey early Monday: At least 55 earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 or greater have struck near Turkey’s Syrian border in the past 24 hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

More earthquakes were recorded after nightfall Monday, even as emergency teams worked to locate people who were trapped in rubble and debris.

The first quake was the largest: a 7.8 magnitude temblor that hit at 4:17 a.m. local time. Since then, at least 15 of the quakes have been magnitude 5.0 or greater, and two have been at 6.0 or more, the USGS says. The quakes are concentrated in a small area, with two of the farthest-flung epicenters separated by only around 200 miles.

The powerful aftershocks have unleashed danger and panic on the public — as epitomized by a TV news crew that documented the moment yet another strong quake forced people to flee, hoping to escape dangers posed by collapsing buildings and the shaking ground.

The U.N. General Assembly holds a minute of silence for earthquake victims

Posted February 6, 2023 at 12:04 PM EST

The United Nations General Assembly held a minute of silence for the more than 2,300 victims of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey during its 58th meeting this morning.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted he is “deeply saddened” by the news of the earthquakes before the meeting. The tweet also offered emergency response support.

“I send my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Guterres said in a separate statement. “Our teams are on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance.”

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it is “assessing the damage” with the U.N. Disaster and Assessment and Coordination department and is ready to deploy rescue teams.

NATO allies among those sending help to the region

Posted February 6, 2023 at 11:49 AM EST

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced Monday on Twitter that NATO allies are mobilizing to help Turkey in the aftermath of a massive earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks.

“Full solidarity with our Ally Türkiye in the aftermath of this terrible earthquake,” Stoltenberg posted on his Twitter account. “I am in touch with President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu, and NATO Allies are mobilizing support now.”

Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, echoed the words of support, calling Turkey a "valuable NATO Ally."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used his country’s NATO member status to block bids by Sweden and Finland to join the alliance since they applied in May, demanding both countries deport more than a hundred Kurds that Erdogan’s government considers terrorists.

Human rights advocates have warned against making political concessions to Turkey, saying deportations would be legally dubious and infringe on the human rights of those concerned.

Rescue worker says the earthquake was 'like doomsday'

Posted February 6, 2023 at 11:36 AM EST
Members of the Syrian civil defense, known as the White Helmets, transport a casualty rescued from the rubble in Shalakh village in Idlib's eastern countryside, on Monday.
Muhammad Haj Kadour
/
AFP via Getty Images
Members of the Syrian civil defense, known as the White Helmets, transport a casualty rescued from the rubble in Shalakh village in Idlib's eastern countryside, on Monday.

Ammar Al Samo, a volunteer with the White Helmets, a Syrian aid group, told NPR diplomacy correspondent Michele Kelemen that today's earthquake was "like doomsday" because it hit a war-torn region during a difficult snowstorm.

"Imagine more than 3 million people who were displaced, in weak infrastructure due to the civil war," he said, adding that millions were living in tents and camps. "The earthquake [escalated] the situation."

"Most people are fleeing into the streets, in low temperatures, because buildings are not safe."

"The effect is devastating," Samo said. "Our team is trying to race time to save lives, but a lot more resources are needed."

Roughly 3,000 White Helmet volunteers are trying to help, a number that Samo says is not nearly enough. So far they've pulled 400 dead bodies from the rubble, but he believes there are "hundreds of families" still trapped.

The crews need more heavy equipment and better medical facilities, he says. Turkish authorities said earlier today that more than 2,800 buildings have collapsed in their country.

In the long term, Samo says Syrian refugees need a political settlement to be able to return to their cities safely.

Picture Show

See scenes from Turkey and Syria

Posted February 6, 2023 at 11:17 AM EST

Details and images continue to emerge in the wake of the powerful earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday morning.

NPR's photo editors have collected photos from both countries of the rubble, rescue missions and search for survivors.

Click here to take a look.

An aerial view shows residents search for victims and survivors on Monday amidst collapsed buildings in the village of Besnia, in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province.
Omar Haj Kadour
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AFP via Getty Images
An aerial view shows residents search for victims and survivors on Monday amidst collapsed buildings in the village of Besnia, in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province.

A Turkish castle that withstood centuries of invasions collapsed in the quake

Posted February 6, 2023 at 10:59 AM EST
The Gaziantep Castle pictured in August 2022. Monday's earthquake has reportedly leveled the historic site.
Omar Haj Kadour
/
AFP via Getty Images
The Gaziantep Castle, pictured in August 2022. Monday's earthquake has reportedly leveled the historic site.

Monday's earthquake all but destroyed a 2,000-year-old castle in southeastern Turkey, according to state and local reports.

Gaziantep Castle — located in the heart of the city closest to the quake's epicenter — began as an observation point during the Hittite Empire, was fortified during the Roman Empire and expanded under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.

The castle is unique for its irregular shape and 12 towers (it was surrounded by a moat at one point too).

It withstood multiple invasions, renovations and regime changes, losing its military significance after the Ottoman Empire captured it in 1516 but holding on to its status as an important historic site and tourist attraction in the centuries since.

It was most recently home to the Gaziantep Defense and Heroism Panoramic Museum.

The castle collapsed during Monday's earthquake, according to Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.

“Some of the bastions in the east, south and south-east parts of the historical Gaziantep Castle in the central Şahinbey district were destroyed by the earthquake; the debris was scattered on the road,” the outlet said, in reports cited by CNNand The Guardian.

“The iron railings around the court were scattered on the surrounding sidewalks," it added. "The retaining wall next to the castle also collapsed. In some bastions, large cracks were observed after the earthquake,”

The Turkish pro-government website Daily Sabah also reported that the dome and eastern wall of the nearby Şirvani Mosque — which dates back to the 17th century and is next to the castle — partially collapsed too.

Just In

Turkey's emergency management authority asks residents to stay away from the rubble

Posted February 6, 2023 at 10:34 AM EST
Rescue workers and volunteers conduct search and rescue operations in the rubble of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on Monday.
Ilyas Akengin
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AFP via Getty Images
Rescue workers and volunteers conduct search and rescue operations in the rubble of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on Monday.

It's nearly 6:30 p.m. in the regions that were hit hardest by today's earthquakes. In Gaziantep, near the epicenter of the first temblor, the temperature is expected to hover around 21F as night falls.

Turkey's Interior Disaster Ministry says it has deployed over 9,600 search and rescue personnel to look for possible survivors of today's earthquake.

"The first 72 hours after a natural disaster are very important," said Orhan Tatar, the ministry's head, in a press conference.

"It's very important for our citizens to keep far from areas of collapse and let professional search and rescue operators work."

Tatar thanked the international community for sending aid to the region that stressed the aid must be delivered in close coordination with the Turkish government to keep roads clear.

‘I am deeply saddened,’ Biden says of quake disaster

Posted February 6, 2023 at 10:24 AM EST

The U.S. is offering condolences and aid in response to the earthquake disaster, as President Biden issued a message stating, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation” in Turkey and Syria.

Biden said in a tweet that he has directed his administration to monitor the situation closely, to coordinate with Turkish officials and to “provide any and all needed assistance.”

The U.S. aid response “is already underway” in Turkey, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement issued by the State Department. And in Syria, he added, humanitarian groups that are supported by the U.S. are also responding to the earthquake emergency there.

Acknowledging the massive scope of the human losses and physical damage, Blinken added that the U.S. will do everything it can to help in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

The U.S. response will include USAID — the U.S. Agency for International Development — and other federal agencies, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier Monday.

Just In

Death toll now above 2,300 as search and rescue efforts continue

Posted February 6, 2023 at 10:07 AM EST

The Associated Press reports the death toll has risen above 2,300.

It's been about 12 hours since the initial earthquake struck in Turkey's southeastern province of Kahramanmaras. Rescue workers believe there are hundreds of people still trapped in rubble after 2,800 buildings reportedly collapsed.

At least 1,498 of the deaths were reported in Turkey, with another 783 in Syria.

Just In

A Turkish TV news crew captured the moment a major aftershock hit

Posted February 6, 2023 at 10:01 AM EST

A video clip circulating on social media provides a harrowing account of the moment a major aftershock struck Turkey today.

The shock, measuring 7.5 in magnitude, struck approximately nine hours later and 60 miles to the southwest of the first, 7.8-magnitude quake.

The video shows a camera crew surveying the damage from the first quake, then running away in panic as buildings collapse behind them, sending huge clouds of dust billowing into the air.

The reporter featured in the video, Yuksel Akalan, kept reporting on the scene, at one point carrying a child away from the rubble.

War-torn Ukraine will send rescue workers to Turkey

Posted February 6, 2023 at 9:51 AM EST

For nearly a year, Ukraine has sought aid and assistance from other countries as it defends itself against Russia's invasion. Now the war-torn country is offering help to Turkey, its neighbor across the Black Sea.

Ukrainian officials shared condolences and messages of support on social media in the wake of the devastating earthquake.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted out his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish people and the families of those injured.

"We stand with the people of Turkey in this difficult time," he wrote, according to Twitter's English translation. "We are ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster."

Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted out a similar statement, sending thoughts to families of those affected and wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured.

"Ukraine stands ready to send a large group of rescue workers to Türkiye to assist crisis response," he added. "We are working closely with the Turkish side to coordinate their deployment."

Turkey is a member of NATO that has remained friendly with both Ukraine and Russia, using its influence to push for peace talks and help mediate a grain deal between the two countries.

The Ukrainian officials did not mention Syria in their statements. Those countries formally severed tiesin the summer of 2022, when Syria became the first country to recognize the independence of Ukraine's Russia-backed eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Rescuers work outside a damaged residential building after a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.
Sergey Bobok
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AFP via Getty Images
Rescuers work outside a damaged residential building after a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Many people were sleeping when the devastating quake hit

Posted February 6, 2023 at 9:30 AM EST
Members of the Syrian civil defense, known as the White Helmets, carry a boy rescued from the rubble of a building following an earthquake in the rebel-held Syrian town of al-Dana, in the northwestern Idlib province near the Turkish-Syrian border.
Aaref Watad
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AFP via Getty Images
Members of the Syrian civil defense, known as the White Helmets, carry a boy rescued from the rubble of a building following an earthquake in the rebel-held Syrian town of al-Dana, in the northwestern Idlib province near the Turkish-Syrian border.

The tragedy of Monday’s strong earthquake includes whole families who had been sleeping — but were trapped under the wreckage of buildings after catastrophe struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, aid officials say.

The 7.8 magnitude quake hit at 4:17 a.m. local time, the U.S. Geological Survey says, triggering a rush of people to flee their homes and run into the night.

Hundreds of families were trapped, according to Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets — a civil defense group that operates in northern Syria. Because of the quake's timing in the middle of the night and other circumstances, he said, the death toll is expected to rise even higher.

Many people who did manage to flee outside had to contend with a winter storm that dropped rain and snow overnight as emergency crews worked to reach victims and help survivors.

A series of strong aftershocks followed that initial temblor, including a 7.5 magnitude quake that struck nine hours later, around 1:24 p.m. local time, in an area north of the first epicenter. According to local reports, that second temblor collapsed some buildings that had been damaged by the first quake.

These are some of the countries and organizations responding to the quake

Posted February 6, 2023 at 9:15 AM EST
An aerial view shows residents, aided by heavy equipment, searching for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in the village of Besnia in Syria's rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkey.
Omar Haj Kadour
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AFP via Getty Images
An aerial view shows residents, aided by heavy equipment, searching for victims and survivors amid the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in the village of Besnia in Syria's rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkey.

Much of the world is waking up to devastating updates and images out of Turkey and Syria, where a powerful earthquake has killed thousands, damaged infrastructure and left survivors vulnerable.

What can onlookers to do help?

Leaders around the world, including in the U.S. and the U.K., have said their countries stand ready to help.

Lithuania's foreign minister says it is on deck to provide tents, blankets and medical services, while the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says the office is "ready to help provide urgent relief to the survivors through our field teams wherever possible."

Numerous countries have already started to send in search and rescue personnel.

India is sending two search and rescue teams (including 100 responders, dog squads and equipment) to Turkey. Israel's prime minister says it will provide aid — in the form of rescue teams and supplies, respectively — to both Turkey and Syria (the latter is reportedly being conducted through diplomatic channels, as the two countries do not have a formal relationship). Greece also promised to assist immediately.

And the European Union says it has mobilized search and rescue teams from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania to support first responders in Turkey, while Italy, Spain and Slovakia have also offered teams.

Meanwhile, several humanitarian organizations say they are prepared to support the emergency response — and looking for help in that effort.

UNICEF said Monday morning that it is "ready to support those affected, as the scale of destruction becomes clearer."

Noting that thousands of children have been forced out of their homes into freezing temperatures, Save the Children International says it is "preparing to respond" and "moving quickly." It's sharing the donation form for its Children's Emergency Fund.

Hans Kluge, the regional director of the World Health Organization in Europe, tweeted on Monday that headquarters and multiple regional offices are coordinating "to support the wide-ranging response."

French aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says its teams have been responding in Syria since the early morning hours, treating patients in northern Syria and donating emergency medical kits to other facilities in the region.

“We remain in close contact with authorities in northwest Syria and in southern Turkey to better support based on their needs and support the people affected by the earthquake," it added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said hundreds of staff and volunteers with the Turkish Red Crescent are supporting people on the ground with mobile kitchens, catering vehicles, tents and blankets.

It later said responders had scaled up efforts to provide hot meals and drinks, provide psychosocial support and ship blood to affected areas.

Some organizations are specifically soliciting donations.

The International Blue Crescent (IBC), which says it has already started support and emergency relief efforts in Turkey, has issued an urgent appeal for tents, heaters, blankets, warm clothes, first aid kits and "ready to eat food" for at least 5,000 people.

And the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), which provides healthcare in parts of northwest Syria, says it needs "urgent support immediately" in order to save lives and is calling on the international community to release emergency funds to provide aid and rescue resources.

Just In

Death toll rises above 1,900, per the AP

Posted February 6, 2023 at 8:55 AM EST

The Associated Press reports more than 1,900 people are now recorded dead as search and rescue efforts continue in Turkey and Syria.

At least 1,014 deaths were reported in seven Turkish provinces, according to authorities in the region.

The current death toll is expected to rise. Rescue workers believe hundreds are still trapped under the rubble.

Just In

Here's more information on the 7.5-magnitude aftershock

Posted February 6, 2023 at 8:51 AM EST
A photograph shows a dammaged bicycle as rescuers search for survivors through the rubble in Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Monday.
STR
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AFP via Getty Images
Debris includes a damaged bicycle as rescuers search for survivors through the rubble in Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Monday.

A series of powerful aftershocks are continuing to rock southern Turkey and northern Syria. One major quake measuring 7.5 struck approximately nine hours later and 60 miles to the southwest of the first, 7.8 magnitude quake.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 7.5 magnitude quake appears to have occurred along the same fault zone as the first: the East Anatolia fault zone, which occurs along the Anatolia, Arabia and Africa plates.

Prior to today's earthquake sequence, "only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have occurred within 250 km [of the region] since 1970," according to the USGS.

The USGS recorded data to indicate that at least 30 major aftershocks have occurred along the same fault zone since the initial 7.8 magnitude quake. Some have had magnitudes as high as 6.7, a troubling prospect for search and rescue crews, who continue to comb through tangled rubble in search of survivors.

Just In

More than 2,824 buildings have collapsed in the region, according to Turkish authorities

Posted February 6, 2023 at 8:34 AM EST
Rescuers search for survivors through the rubble in Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Monday.
STR
/
AFP via Getty Images
Rescuers search for survivors through the rubble in Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Monday.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Ministry gave an update on the ongoing search and rescue efforts:

  • A total of 9,698 search and rescue personnel have been deployed.
  • A total of 76 catering vehicles, including 14 mobile kitchens, are being sent out to the impacted areas. Rescue crews will have more than 19,700 tents and 300,000 blankets.
  • Those efforts will go towards those who survived a total of 2,824 collapsed buildings reported in the region.

The earthquake struck infrastructure already damaged by Syria's civil war

Posted February 6, 2023 at 8:20 AM EST
Residents pass a collapsed building following an earthquake in the town of Jandaris in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province on Monday.
Rami al Sayed
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AFP via Getty Images
Residents pass a collapsed building following an earthquake in the town of Jandaris in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province on Monday.

The earthquake in northern Syria hit parts of the country that have been already been devastated by more than a decade of civil war.

In Idlib and Aleppo provinces, basic infrastructure has already been badly damaged by the war. The area is also home to millions of Syrians who fled the fighting in other parts of the country. Many live in refugee camps or basic tented settlements established amid the olive groves that run along the border with Turkey.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an organization that provides health care in rebel-held areas of northwest Syria, said "so far our hospitals in northwest Syria have received 91 dead and treated more than 500 severely injured victims of the earthquake. Four of our hospitals were damaged and evacuated. The remaining ones are overwhelmed."

Jomah al Qassim, a Syrian living across the border in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, works for Bahar Organisation, a charity that operates in Syria and in Iraq.

"According to our team in Syria, there are many casualties and damage to the buildings. Many are reported dead," he told NPR.

"This is the last thing people need in Syria. There has been crisis after crisis. People are already exhausted."

The United Nations monitoring body, the OCHA, says of the population of 4.6 million people in northwest Syria, some 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. More than 3 million residents of the area are food insecure.

Cold and snowy conditions are hampering the search efforts in Turkey

Posted February 6, 2023 at 8:09 AM EST
Responders stand outside a damaged building after an earthquake hits the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras, Turkey on Monday.
Serhat Zafer
/
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Responders stand outside a damaged building after an earthquake hit the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on Monday.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul that search and rescue teams are still picking through collapsed buildings and looking for survivors.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said bitterly cold and snowy conditions are making that effort more difficult, but called on people to "stand as one" to meet the challenge.

The country had been bracing for a snowstorm, with Turkish Airlines canceling more than 200 flights for Sunday and Monday because of expected conditions. In nearby Greece, heavy snowfall shut down schools, shops and many in-person businesses and public services in Athens on Monday.

Al Jazeera reports that freezing temperatures in Syria and snow and rain in Turkey pose a challenge to civilians and rescue workers.

More than 40 countries are offering aid or search and rescue help, Erdogan added.

Vice President Fuat Oktay said more than 1,100 search and rescue teams — including law enforcement and the military — are responding, and that blankets and other crucial aid is coming to hard-hit areas.

Still, that process will take a while. Oktay estimated that efforts to repair power and communication lines will take days, and that natural gas lines in Maras and Gaziantep need repairs too.

He urged people to get to safe areas, warning that "what kills is not the quake, but the buildings."

The earthquake was so powerful that an NPR reporter felt it in Lebanon

Posted February 6, 2023 at 7:58 AM EST

Ruth Sherlock, an NPR correspondent based in Beirut, was woken up in the early morning hours when she felt her building swaying — a result of the earthquake that struck hundreds of miles away in southeast Turkey.

"My husband and I grabbed our children and ran outside," she told Morning Edition. "Of course we were fine, but then I started hearing just how bad this is in Turkey and Syria."

The powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit near the Turkish city of Gaziantep at 4:17 a.m. local time.

It was so strong that there are reports of buildings collapsing in an area that spans 200 miles around the epicenter, Sherlock says.

People tried to escape in their cars, which jammed the roads and made it even harder for emergency services to reach the wounded. To make matters worse, she says, a snowstorm is hitting the region at the moment, so people fleeing their buildings were running into the freezing cold. In Turkey, mosques are open as shelters for those who can't go home.

Meanwhile, videos from northern Syria show people running — in darkness and rain — away from collapsed buildings. The head of the White Helmets — a civil defense group that works in parts of the country controlled by the opposition in Syria's ongoing civil war — tells Sherlock the situation is "disastrous," with buildings falling and families trapped under rubble.

And that's on top of the humanitarian issues already plaguing northern Syria, after more than a decade of war. Sherlock says rescue operations will take time — but time is critical, and the weather isn't helping.

The U.S. says it's ready to provide assistance

Posted February 6, 2023 at 7:44 AM EST

The U.S. is "profoundly concerned" by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

"We stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance. President Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess U.S. response options to help those most affected," he added.

USAID — the U.S. Agency for International Development — is the federal agency that works to administer civilian foreign aid and development assistance.

Sullivan also tweeted that he has been in contact with Turkish officials to assure them that the U.S. is prepared to help and will closely monitor the situation in coordination with the Turkish government.


A spelling note: Sullivan refers to the country as "Turkiye" — the name its president has been pushing the international community to recognize since 2021.

The United Nations agreed to recognize the country as Türkiye in June, and the U.S. State Department announced last month that it would start using that spelling in formal and diplomatic settings.

The Associated Press, whose stylebook NPR and other news organizations follow, has not formally adopted the new spelling just yet.

Just In

More major shaking is recorded in southeastern Turkey

Posted February 6, 2023 at 7:35 AM EST

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded data to indicate that another large temblor, with a magnitude of 7.5, hit southeastern Turkey around 1:24 p.m. local time (5:24 a.m. ET).

The shaking was concentrated outside of Ekinozu, in the Kahramanmaras province.

We'll bring you more details on this and aftershocks in the region as we have them.

Thousands of already vulnerable Syrians are at risk, humanitarian group warns

Posted February 6, 2023 at 7:25 AM EST
Residents retrieve a small child from the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in the town of Jandaris, in the countryside of Syria's northwestern city of Afrin in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province.
Rami al Sayed
/
AFP via Getty Images
Residents retrieve a small child from the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in the town of Jandaris, in the countryside of Syria's northwestern city of Afrin in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province.

The earthquake has rocked already war-torn northern Syria, home to many people who had fled fighting in other areas.

The United Nations says 3.3 million of the 4.6 million people living in northwest Syria are food insecure. The earthquake comes at an increasingly dire moment for the region, which was already suffering from harsh winter conditions and a cholera outbreak.

Infrastructure was already damaged by the civil war, with many hospitals in the area taking repeated hits from airstrikes by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia, NPR correspondent Ruth Sherlock told Morning Edition. Four hospitals in northern Syria had to be evacuated due to earthquake damage, she added.

The International Rescue Committee issued a statement expressing concern about "the ability of an already decimated health system to cope inside Syria," noting that hospitals in northern Syria are already stretched thin because of the cholera outbreak.

It says the quake has impacted a population that is already vulnerable and warns that thousands more remain at risk.

"It is a crisis within multiple crises — temperatures are plummeting to below zero, leaving thousands exposed. Women and children will find themselves particularly at risk of exploitation and abuse should they find themselves once again displaced. Many in northwest Syria have been displaced up to 20 times and with health facilities strained beyond capacity, even before this tragedy many did not have access to the health care they critically need.

The IRC says its teams are on the ground and working to ensure the safety and well-being of those affected — and is calling on the international community to urgently increase critical funding "to ensure that those affected by this emergency, within an emergency, get the support they need."

Rescue workers say it's impossible to estimate the death toll

Posted February 6, 2023 at 7:06 AM EST
A man reacts as people search for survivors through the rubble in Diyarbakir, Turkey.
Ilyas Akengin
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AFP via Getty Images
A man reacts as people search for survivors through the rubble in Diyarbakir, Turkey.

The quake and its aftershocks have triggered a new humanitarian crisis in a region already shaken by more than a decade of civil war in Syria.

The AP, citing Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management agency, reported that at least 284 people were killed in seven Turkish provinces. More 440 people were injured.

The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 237 with more than 630 injured, the AP reported, citing Syrian state media. At least 120 people were killed in rebel-held areas, according to the White Helmets, a civil defense group which operates in Northern Syria.

In northeast Syria, the quake caused multiple buildings to collapse. Footage from local journalists showed families running through the rain and the darkness in panic amid the debris of devastated homes.

"Truthfully the situation is disastrous," Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets told NPR. He said cities and villages across northern Syria are affected.

"We can't estimate the damages or know how many people have been killed," he said.

"In all these areas buildings have fallen to the ground and the teams are working on them. And all of these buildings have people under the rubble. The hospitals are all completely full. The situation is literally tragic."

More than 1,300 dead after a powerful earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria

Posted February 6, 2023 at 6:44 AM EST
People watch as rescue teams look for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Monday.
AFP
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via Getty Images
People watch as rescue teams look for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Monday.

Search-and-rescue efforts are underway as the death toll began soaring after a powerful earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday.

More than 1,300 were reported dead and hundreds more injured in Turkey and Syria from the quake, The Associated Press reported. Hundreds of buildings collapsed in cities across the border region.

The 7.8 magnitude quake's epicenter was about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep in Turkey's Anatolia Region, according to the United States Geological Survey. The quake began more than 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep. Tremors from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake was felt in Syria and as far as Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq and Egypt.