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Turkey-Syria quake: Over 2,000 killed, countries pledge aid

Over 9,000 involved in rescue operations in Turkey

Turkey Syria earthquake (File) People try to reach trapped residents in a collapsed building in Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province, southern Turkey | Reuters

Over 2,000 persons got killed in the powerful earthquakes that jolted Turkey on Monday. Rescue operations are continuing and several nations have pledged to aid in rescue operations.

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 2,300 people. The US Geological Survey measured Monday's quake at 7.8. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck more than 100 kilometres away. An official from Turkey's disaster management agency said it was a new earthquake, not an aftershock. Hundreds of aftershocks were expected after the two temblors.

Authorities in Turkey confirmed the deaths of 1,541 persons while 810 deaths were reported in Syria. Tukrkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay said 9,733 persons have suffered injuries in the quakes.

Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

A hospital in Turkey collapsed and patients, including newborns, were evacuated from a handful of facilities in Syria. In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed.

On the Syrian side, the swath affected is divided between government-held territory and the country's last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. 

Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from that conflict. The opposition-held regions in Syria are packed with some four million people displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. 

“Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments. Hundreds of families remained trapped in the rubble, the opposition emergency organisation, called the White Helmets,” said in a statement.

Strained health facilities and hospitals were quickly filled with wounded, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organisation.

“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds, Muheeb Qaddour,” a doctor, said by phone from the town of Atmeh.

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999. The US Geological Survey measured Monday's quake at 7.8. 

At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.

Buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria's cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey's Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometres to the northeast. 

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter.

Countries from Taiwan to Russia to Germany offered to send help, whether medical supplies, search teams or money.

The quake heavily damaged Gaziantep's most famed landmark, its historic castle perched atop a hill in the centre of the city. Parts of the fortresses' walls and watch towers were levelled and other parts were heavily damaged, images from the city showed.

In northwest Syria, the quake added new woes to the opposition-held enclave centred on the province of Idlib, which has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes. 

US President Joe Biden condoled the incident and pledged assistance to both countries. “I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye and provide any and all needed assistance,” the president tweeted. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin also extended support to Syria. He spoke to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad and pledged to send rescue teams, Al Jazeera reported. Qatar said it will operate relief flights to Turkey. Al Jazeera reported that Qatar-funded Qatar Charity it was supplying relief items to shelters in Turkey and Syria. The group has allocated $6m for the first stages of its response.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said its teams are in ready state to be deployed in Turkey and Syria. 

(With PTI inputs.)


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