No fewer than 200 people have reportedly died as a magnitude 7.8 earthquake has knocked down multiple buildings in southeast Turkey and northern Syria.
Rescuers were spotted carrying a person on a stretcher working at the site of a collapsed building, following an earthquake, in Hama, Syria, according to a handout released by SANA on February 6, 2023.
At least 76 deaths were reported in Turkey, while at least 200 people died in Syria.
Meanwhile, rescue teams are carrying out a frantic search for survivors trapped under tangles of metal and chunks of concrete in cities and towns across Turkey and Syria.
The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
A professor of geophysics at King Abdullah University, Martin Mai has told Al Jazeera that the death toll from “one of the largest earthquakes experienced [in the region] for hundreds of years” is likely to keep rising over the next few days.
He said “In the past, these earthquakes in Turkey have led to about 13,000 fatalities owing to the style of building construction. The sheer size of this event will have a profound economic impact as well.”
Recall that Italian authorities have earlier withdrawn a tsunami warning for the country’s southern coast that was raised after the 7.9-magnitude earthquake.
Italy’s Civil Protection Department issued a statement recommending people move away from coastal areas. Train traffic in the southern regions of Sicily, Calabria, and Apulia had been temporarily halted as a precaution but resumed in the morning, the agency said in the statement.
According to the Syrian health ministry, more than 200 were dead while some 237 people have been killed and 639 injured in Syria in the powerful earthquake, assistant health minister Ahmed Dhamiriyeh has told state television.
The affected swath of Syria is divided between government-held and opposition-held areas.
In rebel-held northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble.
Reacting, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his country is ready to provide necessary assistance to Turkish people in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the country.
“We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. We are in this moment close to the Turkish people, ready to provide the necessary assistance,” Zelenskyy said in Turkish on Twitter.
Consequent to the ugly development, the Syrian Civil Defence has declared a state of emergency in northwestern Syria following Monday’s “catastrophic” earthquake and appealed for international humanitarian assistance.
“The earthquake has resulted in hundreds of injuries, dozens of deaths, and people being stranded in the winter cold. Adverse weather conditions, including low temperatures and stormy weather, have compounded the dire situation,” the opposition group, which is also known as the White Helmets, said in a statement.
The organization also urged “the international community to support the rescue of civilians in Syria and to put pressure on the Assad regime and its Russian ally to ensure that there is no bombing in the affected areas”.
More than 100 people have been killed in government-held parts of Syria, the Syrian health ministry said in a statement.
“516 injuries and 111 deaths recorded in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, and Tartus,” the ministry said in a statement.
Similarly, the United States has expressed profound concern over reports of the “destructive earthquake” in Turkey and Syria and said it stood ready to provide “any needed assistance”.
US President Joe Biden has now directed government agencies to assess response options to help those most affected, the White House said in a statement.