Massive 7.8 earthquake, at least 4300 dead

A devastating earthquake struck Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday morning, leaving more than 4300 people dead and thousands more injured or homeless. Complicating matters further was the fact that the freezing winter weather hampered rescue efforts, making it difficult to search for survivors.

The magnitude 7.8 quake caused entire apartment blocks to collapse, adding to the already large number of Syrians who have been displaced due to years of war. One woman, who was nursing a broken arm and had injuries to her face, described the scene as “like the apocalypse” after the quake shook her seven-story home.

The quake was the most powerful to occur worldwide since a tremor in August 2021 in the South Atlantic, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In Turkey, the death toll has reached 2,316, making it the country’s deadliest earthquake since 1999 when a similar magnitude tremor rocked the eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, leaving over 17,000 dead. Syria saw a total of 1,444 people killed and about 3,500 injured in the quake.

Poor internet connections and damaged roads between some of the worst-affected cities further inhibited the aid and assistance needed by those affected. Furthermore, with temperatures expected to dip near freezing overnight, the situation for those still trapped under rubble and those left homeless was only destined to worsen. Rainfall on Monday followed the weekend snowstorms, adding to the already difficult situation.

The massive earthquake that struck the city of Iskenderun in Turkey has caused over 13,000 people to be injured. Rescuers are working tirelessly to search through the debris of what used to be the intensive care unit of a state hospital, in the hopes of finding survivors.

Health workers have been doing what they can to help with the influx of injured patients, and Tulin, a woman in her thirties, was seen outside the hospital, crying and praying.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has declared the event a historic disaster, being the strongest earthquake in the country since 1939. He acknowledges the difficulty of the situation due to the cold winter season and the fact that it occurred during the night.

The seismic activity caused more buildings to collapse, and in Syria, the death toll has risen to 711 in the government-controlled area, and 733 in the rebel-held northwest.

There are also 4.1 million people in the region that are currently dependent on cross-border humanitarian aid, and the UN has reported that many of these individuals are facing an ongoing cholera outbreak in addition to harsh winter conditions. In Aleppo, two neighboring buildings were seen collapsing one after the other, and in Hama, a child was found apparently lifeless among the ruins of a building.

In the rebel-held town of Jandaris, a mound of rubble was left where a multi-story building once stood, with 12 families believed to be underneath it. The Syrian White Helmets are in a race against time, trying to save as many lives as possible.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and offered his condolences, in addition to any help the U.S. could provide.

The Turkish lira hit a record low, and stocks tumbled. However, they pared the losses at the end of the day.