Turkey and Syria were struck by a strong 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday that killed numerous people, destroyed homes while people were still sleeping, and caused vibrations to be felt as far away as the island of Cyprus.
The initial death toll in Turkey was reported at 53, although it threatened to rise significantly higher because it struck while the majority of people were still asleep at home. According to official media, at least 42 individuals also died in northern Syria’s areas under government control.
Television footage showed horrified Turks watching rescuers sift through the wreckage of destroyed homes while standing in the snow in their pyjamas. According to the US agency, the earthquake occurred at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of roughly 17.9 kilometres (11 miles), and 15 minutes later, a 6.7-magnitude aftershock occurred.
The initial earthquake’s magnitude was estimated by Turkey’s AFAD emergency service centre to be 7.4. The quake was among the strongest to strike the area in at least a century. “I convey my best wishes to all our citizens who were affected by the earthquake,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted.
The earthquake destroyed scores of structures in important southern Turkish cities as well as in the neighbouring country of Syria, which has been plagued by turmoil for more than ten years and is home to millions of displaced people.
On the country’s west coast, close to Latakia, a structure fell, according to Syrian official media. In Hama, central Syria, civil defence and firefighters were attempting to rescue people from the rubble, according to pro-government media.
According to the head of Syria’s National Earthquake Center, Raed Ahmed, this was “historically, the greatest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre,” he told pro-government radio. Turkey is located in one of the seismically active regions of the planet. The biggest earthquake to strike Turkey in decades struck the Turkish area of Duzce in 1999, measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale.
Over 17,000 individuals were killed in that earthquake, including about 1,000 in Istanbul. Experts have long cautioned that Istanbul, which has permitted extensive building without safety safeguards, may be completely destroyed by a huge earthquake.