The magnitude 7.8 earthquake was felt most strongly in Turkey and Syria, but reached as far as Iraq, Egypt and other countries in the region. Turkey has appealed for international help for rescue efforts.
Two massive earthquakes hit Turkey’s southern region on Monday leaving more than 5,000 people dead in Turkey and Syria, and a trail of devastation in densely populated areas where thousands remain trapped under the rubble.
The Turkish government has declared a state of emergency mobilizing rescue teams, including military servicemen, as aid pours in from across the world.
Many describe the temblors as the worst natural disaster to affect Turkey in modern times. Social media is overflowing with pleas for assistance hours after the first quake struck Kahramanmaras, its epicenter, at 4:17 a.m. local time. Harsh winter conditions are hampering aid efforts.
In neighboring Syria, the situation is even more dire. Areas bordering Turkey that are outside the regime’s control were among the hardest hit. International aid to those areas is secured via a single border crossing in southern Turkey.
5:47 a.m., Feb. 7: Erdogan’s chief adviser lashes out at French satire magazine
Ibrahim Kalin, chief adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, slammed the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo over its cover depicting Turkey’s killer earthquakes. “No need even for tanks,” the caption read of a cartoon depicting the devastation, in a snide allusion to the government’s repressive ways.
Kalin tweeted, “Modern barbarians, drown in your hatred and spite.”
Feb. 7: Supreme head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church calls for lifting international sanctions on SyriaAphrem II Patriarch of Antioch & the East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church calls for the lifting of international sanctions on Syria via Twitter.
Feb. 7: Oman’s sultan sends condolences to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad
Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al Said of Oman called Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to express solidarity over the massive earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkey. Oman is among several Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with the Assad regime. The death toll from the twin quakes has now exceeded 5,000, according to the latest figures.
5:30 a.m., Feb. 7: Growing desperation in Iskenderun fuels public anger
Desperation fuels the public anger in the southern Mediterranean town of Iskenderun, where many residents lament that they have been unable to reach any search and rescue workers to save their loved ones trapped under the rubble.
A journalist who has been in the town since last night told Al-Monitor that the number of search and rescue workers in the town of more than 180,000 is no more than 50. Al-Monitor was unable to independently verify this information. “I can say almost half of the town collapsed,” the journalist told Al-Monitor. “Every single person I talked to is asking, ‘Where is the government?”
An Iskenderun resident told Al-Monitor on Monday that the majority of the buildings along the coast of the town collapsed.
Meanwhile, a fire that engulfed the Iskenderun port last night still continues, with TV footage showing a thick smoke blanketing the port area. The port has been used for the transport of rescue workers and patients as harsh weather conditions pose challenges to air and road traffic.
İskenderun Limanı’nda yangın çıktı.#iskenderun pic.twitter.com/45G491cudE — Abdi Baktur (@abdibaktur) February 7, 2023
Feb. 7: China sending emergency humanitarian aid to Turkey
The Chinese government will disburse 40 million yuan (about $5.9 million) in emergency humanitarian aid to Turkey for earthquake relief and rescue work, China Central Television reported.
According to the broadcaster, Chinese authorities decided to provide urgent humanitarian aid to Syria and Turkey. China is also to dispatch rescue and medical teams to both countries. The country’s Red Cross will provide $200,000 to Syria and Turkey, respectively.
4:50 a.m., Feb. 7: Famous soccer player rescued
Soccer player Christian Atsu has been rescued. Atsu, a former player for Newcastle United and Chelsea, had been trapped under rubble in Antakya where he played for Hatay Spor. Antakya, which borders Syria, was among the hardest hit areas in Monday’s devastating earthquakes.
4:44 a.m., Feb. 7: Turkish government sets up misinformation hotline
Turkey’s Communications Directorate, which is widely seen as an enforcer of censorship, has set up a “disinformation hotline” allowing citizens to report perceived acts of spreading false information with regard to the earthquake.
Feb. 7: Search and rescue teams from several countries including Qatar and Israel arrive in Turkey
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said search and rescue teams from 19 different countries arrived in Turkey, and more than 70 countries offered help. Oktay said the teams have been dispatched to various affected provinces from the southern province of Adana, listing the countries as follows:
4 a.m., Feb. 7: Hatay has the highest fatalities among 10 Turkish provinces
Turkey’s southern border province of Hatay has the highest fatalities, according to official figures.Local journalists who are reporting from the ground say that more than half of the buildings in the province collapsed.
Journalist Mehmet Akif Ersoy of Haberturk TV described the province Tuesday during a live broadcast as “a ghost town.”
The death toll in 10 provinces are as follows:
3:50 a.m., Feb. 7: Entry of vehicles banned to three provinces
Turkish authorities have banned entry of civilian vehicles to Adiyaman, Hatay and Kahramanmaras, Vice President Fuat Oktay said.
Oktay added that the measure is aimed at alleviating the congestion in the three provinces in a bid to facilitate the work of search and rescue teams.
3:45 a.m., Feb. 7: Death toll exceeds 3,400
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said Turkey’s death toll has risen to 3,419 with the number of people injured reaching 20,534. Some 5,775 buildings collapsed, according to Oktay.
Oktay said that currently 12,181 search and rescue workers are working on the ground and that 3,294 foreign search and rescue workers arrived in Turkey.
New rescue teams will be dispatched to Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Adiyaman, Oktay added.
2:10 a.m., Feb. 7: EU dispatches 27 search and rescue teams to Turkey
The EU has dispatched more than 27 teams with 1,150 search and rescue workers from 19 EU member states, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said.
So far, we've mobilised 27 search & rescue and medical teams from 19 European countries via the #EUCivilProtectionMechanism to help 🇹🇷 after the earthquake, together over 1150 rescuers and 70 rescue dogs. I thank 🇧🇬🇭🇷🇨🇿🇫🇷🇬🇷🇳🇱🇵🇱🇷🇴🇮🇹🇭🇺🇦🇹🇩🇪🇪🇪🇪🇸🇲🇹🇸🇰🇵🇹🇲🇪🇦🇱. #EUsolidarity at its best! pic.twitter.com/J1jBcwBV1N — Janez Lenarčič (@JanezLenarcic) February 7, 2023
2:00 a.m., Feb. 7: Death toll rises
Turkey’s disaster agency AFAD said Turkey’s death toll has risen to 3,381 with the number of people injured reaching 20,426. Some 5,770 buildings collapsed according to AFAD. Turkey’s Environment Minister Murat Kurum said the earthquake has impacted more than 13 million people.
1:30 a.m., Feb. 7: US ambassador to the UN: Time is of the essence to get assistance to Turkey and Syria
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement that a quick response is needed.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastating humanitarian toll caused by the earthquakes. With the death toll already in the thousands, time is of the essence to get assistance to Turkey and Syria. President Biden has authorized an immediate US response, and I echo the UN secretary-general’s call to the international community to urgently increase critical funding and assistance to help those affected,” she said in a statement early Tuesday.
1 a.m., Feb. 7: Two-month-old baby rescued from under rubble in 29th hour
Two-month-old Mehmet Cinar has been rescued by emergency teams 29 hours after he was trapped under the rubble in Turkey’s southern border province of Hatay. Cinar is seen being taken to an ambulance by first aid workers.
Hatay'da Mehmet Çınar isimli 2 aylık bebek, enkaz altından canlı olarak çıkarıldı. — Yeni Şafak (@yenisafak) February 7, 2023
11:05 p.m., Feb. 6: Israeli rescuers arrive in Turkey
The Israeli team arrived at an Adana airport with more than 150 rescuers. Its members are now starting rescue missions at different sites. Representatives of the Israeli Embassy are working vis-a-vis Turkish authorities for the establishment of a field hospital expected to arrive in the country later on.
10:26 p.m, Feb. 6: Istanbul send nearly 13,000 rescue workers to epicenter region
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya announced early Tuesday morning local time that the province is sending nearly 13,000 rescue personnel to the region at the epicenter of the quake. In a tweet, Yerlikaya said that 12,752 staff and volunteers from Turkey’s disaster agency AFAD would be focused on the Hatay region.
⏰06.00 itibarıyla #İstanbul’umuzdan; ✅ 7️⃣3️⃣ uçak ile ✅ 1️⃣2️⃣.7️⃣5️⃣2️⃣ personelimiz ve AFAD Gönüllülerimiz, başta #Hatay olmak üzere #deprem bölgesine sevk edildi. Hakkınız ödenmez,minnettarız. pic.twitter.com/hlVNnS09u9 — Ali Yerlikaya (@AliYerlikaya) February 7, 2023
Feb. 6: Syrians dig through rubble to find loved ones
Already displaced by war, millions of Syrians living in the northwest part of the country are now faced with the devastating aftermath of the earthquake. At least 700 people in Syria died as of late Monday, with thousands others injured. Ahmad Fallaha reports from Idlib for Al-Monitor.
5:00 p.m, Feb. 6: Death toll in Turkey at 2,379
Death toll from earthquakes in southern rises to 2,379, Vice President Fuat Oktay said.
4:30 p.m, Feb. 6: US Secretaries of State and Defense speak to their Turkish counterparts
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar today by phone as Washington stands ready to offer further support for recovery efforts. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his counterpart Mevlut Cavusolgu. “We are determined to provide any and all assistance to help those affected by these earthquakes. Secretary Blinken just got off the phone with his counterpart Foreign Minister top shoulder of Turkey to reiterate the same message,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.
3:27 p.m., Feb. 6: Iraq establishes ‘air bridge’ to Turkey and Syria
Iraqi military spokesman Yehia Rasool said Iraq established an “air bridge” to Turkey and Syria. Iraq dispatched medical supplies, fuel and other materials another forms of aid by plane, Rasool said in a tweet.
1:20 p.m, Feb. 6: More than 6,640 people have been rescued in Turkey
Turkey’s disaster agency AFAD announced that the number of people who were rescued from the collapsed buildings has reached 6,445 people. The number of the collapsed buildings across the 10 provinces that were hit by the quake has risen to 5,606, the agency added.
12:40 p.m., Feb 6: Turkey declares one week of national mourning
Turkey’s president announced on Monday that Turkey would observe seven days of national mourning over the two massive earthquakes that hit the country only nine hours apart. Erdogan said flags would fly at half mast across the country and at Turkey’s diplomatic missions abroad.
12:20 p.m., Feb. 6: Turkey’s death toll from earthquake rises
Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the death toll in Turkey has risen to 1,651, the number of people injured has reached 11,119, and the number of collapsed buildings is up to 3,471.
Speaking in Hatay, Koca said emergency teams were trying to rescue patients and hospital personnel from Iskenderun State Hospital, which collapsed during the first earthquake. Iskenderun is one of the worst-hit towns of Hatay. Koca said the injured people were being taken to hospitals in nearby provinces.
Feb. 6: US sending rescue teams, White House announces
US National Security Spokesman John Kirby announced on Monday that Washington will be sending rescue teams. “We are in the process of deploying two 79-person urban search and rescue teams to support Turkish search and rescue efforts, to help address all the needs of all of those who’ve been hurt or displaced by the earthquake,” Kirby said.
The rescue teams are headed to Turkey as US works with partners on the ground inside Syria. “USAID and the Pentagon are also now coordinating with their Turkish counterparts on additional assistance, and of course, US supported humanitarian partners are going to be responding to the situation inside Syria,” Kirby added.
Feb. 6: UN agencies launch emergency response to help Turkey, Syria
Emergency medical teams from the World Health Organization have been given the green light to provide essential care for the injured and most vulnerable, the agency’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community to extend support to Syria and Turkey, where thousands of people were trapped under the rubble.
The UN chief said that the UN was counting on the international community to help the many thousands caught up in the disaster, “many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge.”
11:40 a.m., Feb 6: Gulf countries rush aid to Turkey and Syria, Salim Essaid reports
UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed made calls to both Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
11:39 a.m., Feb. 6: Israel’s Herzog speaks to Erdogan
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog spoke on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conveying condolences over the earthquake casualties. Herzog said that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid made it clear that Israelis are united in their desire to help Turkey as much as necessary.
11:26 a.m., Feb. 6: Erdogan speaks to Saudi crown prince
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered condolences to Erdogan on Monday, the Turkish presidency said.
11:20 a.m., Feb. 6: Death toll climbs to over 2,000
Reuters latest estimate has put the death toll at around 1,500 in Turkey and more than 700 in Syria. The number is expected to go up as rescue efforts continue in both countries.
11:00 a.m., Feb. 6: Greece’s premier, president offer condolences to Erdogan
Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis offered Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condolences and well wishes in separate phone calls, the Turkish presidency said.
The phone calls came amid heightening tensions between the two NATO allies over disputed territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Feb. 6: Temperatures to fall further in impacted provinces as thousands trapped under the rubble
Temperatures in provinces hit by the powerful earthquakes are expected to fall as low as -4 Celsius (39 Fahrenheit) early Tuesday in some provinces as rescuers are scrambling to save survivors under the rubble, according to Turkey’s weather agency.
Snowfall is expected in Malatya, Adiyaman Diyarbakir and Kilis, where thousands of buildings have collapsed.
Forecasts show rainfall in Sanliurfa, Adana, Gaziantep and Hatay.
10:48 a.m., Feb. 6: Syrian Kurdish Commander condoles Syria and Turkey
The commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazlum Abdi, offered condolences to the Syrian people and Turkey as well as Turkey’s Kurds over Monday’s earthquakes. “We sympathize with the families of the victims of the earthquake that occurred at dawn today in the entire Syrian territory and we express our sincere condolences, wishing a speedy recovery for the injured.
We stand in solidarity with our people in all Syrian regions and are ready to extend a helping hand,” Abdi tweeted in Arabic. His message for Turkey and its Kurds was in Kurmanji, the most widely spoken Kurdish dialect.
10:37 a.m., Feb. 6: Erdogan snubs CHP, calls Aksener
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke over the phone with Meral Aksener, leader of the right wing nationalist Iyi or Good Party to discuss the earthquake. It remains unclear why Erdogan defied tradition to call her first rather than the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as would be customary in such circumstances.
The move has prompted further speculation that Erdogan is seeking to drive a wedge between the Good Party and the CHP ahead of the May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections. Aksener is known to oppose Kilicdaroglu’s bid to become the presidential candidate for the alliance of six opposition parties.
10:30 a.m. Feb. 6: Death toll in Turkey rises to 1,541
The death toll has risen to 1,541, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said. Oktay said 9,733 people have been injured and that the number of buildings confirmed to have collapsed has increased to 3,471.Oktay said the the rescue teams are facing disruptions in transportation to the affected provinces due to weather conditions. Oktay said accommodation, food supplies and energy sources remain top priorities along with the rescue efforts. Primary, middle and high schools will remain closed across the country until Feb. 13.
Oktay also called on residents to evacuate the affected provinces, in order to facilitate the work of emergency teams. He added that bakeries will provide free bread to all those who remain in the 10 affected provinces.
10:17 a.m., Feb. 6: Putin discusses assistance with Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the earthquake. The two discussed rescue support Russia can provide to Turkey, according to the Turkish presidency.
10:13 a.m., Feb. 6: Russian rescuers to leave for Syria
Rescuers from Russia will fly to Syria “in the coming hours,” the Kremlin said. The announcement followed a call between President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad. Russia has Ilyushin-76 planes on standby to fly to both Syria and Turkey, Reuters reported.
Feb 6: Sweden and Finland extend condolences to Turkey
Sweden’s and Finland leaders Ulf Kristersson and Sanna Marin whose countries have seen a rift with Turkey over their NATO membership and the burning of the Quran, have extended condolences to Ankara and Erdogan.
Saddened about the loss of lives in Türkiye and Syria following the major earthquake. Our thoughts go to the victims and their loved ones. I have sent my deepest condolences to @RTErdogan. As partner of Türkiye and holder of the EU presidency, we stand ready to offer our support. — SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) February 6, 2023
Feb. 6: Sick and elderly people wait in the snow in Malatya
A video circulated on social media showing elder and sick people who were evacuated from a nursing home in Malatya, one of the worst-impacted provinces by the quake, waiting outside in the snow.
🔴 #DEPREM | Görüntüler Malatya'dan bir bakım evinden Güven Bakım Evi'nde yaşayan yatalak ve engelli hastalar deprem nedeniyle tahliye edilmiş yardım bekliyorlar. pic.twitter.com/Oy2KymEpLN — dokuz8haber (@dokuz8haber) February 6, 2023
9:51 a.m., Feb. 6: Israeli aid teams en route to Turkey
The first of two Israeli rescue teams has left the country for Turkey as part of the operation dubbed “Olive Branches.” The first team will assess the situation on the ground, while the second will contain full medical and rescue teams from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), The Times of Israel reported. The IDF has extensive experience responding to earthquakes and building collapses.
9:40 a.m., Feb. 6: US support to Turkey ‘underway’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the US’ “initial response to Turkiye is already underway. Blinken added that “US-supported humanitarian organizations” are responding to the disaster across Syria.
9:20 a.m., Feb. 6: Death toll rises to 1,498
Turkish authorities put the death toll in Turkey at 1,498 from the two massive earthquakes that hit the country’s south and northern Syria. Turkey’s disaster agency AFAD also announced that the number of injured people has risen to 8,533, and put the number of buildings that collapsed at 2,834.
8:59 a.m., Feb. 6: Kurdistan Region dispatches ambulances to Turkey and Syria
A spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq said three rescue teams and 25 ambulances will soon leave the region for Turkey and Syria. KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani had instructed health officials to respond to the earthquake.
8:03 a.m., Feb. 6: Biden ‘in coordination’ with Turkey
US President Joe Biden said he is “deeply saddened” by the devastation caused by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. “I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye and provide any and all needed assistance,” he said on Twitter.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria. I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye and provide any and all needed assistance. — President Biden (@POTUS) February 6, 2023
7:22 a.m., Feb. 6: Syrian rescue group says more than 380 dead, more than 100 buildings collapsed
The White Helmets rescue group in rebel-controlled northwest Syria said more than 380 people have died along with more than 1,000 injured. They added that 133 buildings completely collapsed and that another 272 partially collapsed.
Video circulating of buildings collapsing in Aleppo- Kalasa neighbourhood in the aftermath of the #earthquake this morning. Thousands have been injured hundreds are dead/stuck under the rubbles. pic.twitter.com/puWXDVwLhO — Zouhir Al-Shimale (@ZouhirAlShimale) February 6, 2023
The civilian aid and rescue group the White Helmets appealed for help via Twitter, saying northwest Syria was “in a state of catastrophe.” A White Helmets spokesperson standing before a sea of gray debris said in a video recording, presumably shot in Idlib, that hundreds of people were injured, dozens were dead “and many trapped under the rubble in the winter cold. We call on the international community to take action,” he said.
Tremors were also felt in Lebanon, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and the southern Caucasian nation of Georgia, according to the US Geological Survey.
3:57 a.m., Feb. 6: Armenia offers help to Turkey and Syria
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan tweeted his “deepest condolences” to Turkey and Syria and said Armenia is “ready to provide assistance.” Turkey and Armenia are currently engaged in talks to restore diplomatic ties after years of tensions.
2:40 a.m., Feb. 6: Greek Foreign Ministry ‘ready to provide assistance’
The Greek Foreign Ministry said they are “profoundly saddened by the loss of life and damage” in Turkey and Syria. They added that Greece is “ready to provide assistance” in a tweet. Greece and Turkey’s relationship is tense due to the division of Cyprus, Turkey’s energy exploration plans in the Eastern Mediterranean and other issues.
Climbing death toll
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put the death toll in Turkey at 912, adding that more than 5,385 people had been injured in 10 Turkish provinces. He said 2,470 people have been rescued from 2,818 buildings so far.
“Rescue teams have been immediately dispatched to the affected areas. God willing, we will overcome this disaster together with the minimum fallout,” Erdogan said. “Contacts have been initiated to dispatch international aid. Alongside NATO and the European Union offers for aid from 45 countries have been received.”
Several social media users reported communication with people trapped under the rubble and waiting to be rescued.
Citing Syria’s Health Ministry, local media outlets in Syria reported that more than 230 people were killed and 639 wounded in northern Syria.
Salih Muslim, co-chair of the Democratic Unity Party that shares power in northeast Syria’s Kurdish-led autonomous administration, said the impact in the areas under its control were minimal. “No one was killed and our structures are intact,” he told Al-Monitor. “The worst damage was inflicted west of Kobani in areas under Turkish occupation.” At least six people died in Aleppo’s Kurdish-majority Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, Muslim added.
The biggest death toll in Turkey is in Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the quake, where 70 people are reported dead. Television footage shows emergency teams and volunteers trying to rescue people under the debris in the province under heavy snowfall.
Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, bordering war-torn Syria, stands out as one of the most impacted areas in the region. Hatay Governor Rahmi Dogan said two state hospitals had collapsed in the province’s central town of Antakya and the seaside town of Iskenderun.
“The majority of the buildings along the coast of Iskenderun collapsed,” a Hatay resident told Al-Monitor. Volkan Demirel, coach of Hatayspor and former soccer player, appealed for help in an online video. “Please help, the situation … here is really bad,” Demirel said in tears.
Vice President Fuat Oktay said that the province’s airport was closed due to heavy damage.
Orhan Mursaloglu, deputy mayor of Antakya, was among those trapped under the rubble after his apartment building collapsed. No rescue workers had reached the site as of time of publication of this article, his relatives told Al-Monitor.
Multiple apartment buildings have collapsed after a powerful earthquake in southern Turkey pic.twitter.com/wydrBj94RL — BNO News (@BNONews) Feb. 6, 2023
Turkey’s state-run emergency relief agency AFAD called on the international community to help in rescue operations. Oktay said rescue teams and medical support are Turkey’s priority.
The southern provinces of Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Osmaniye, Diyarbakir, Adiyaman, Malatya and Sanliurfa were also hit by the quake, AFAD said. The region houses more than 10 million including millions of Syrian refugees.
In Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkey’s large Kurdish population, local journalist Bekir Dogan relayed scenes of anguish and devastation outside Galleria, a posh residential complex in the city center. “One of its wings lies in ruins, and we believe there may be at least 100 people inside,” Dogan told Al-Monitor.
Dogan was awake when the earthquake struck. He said that he had gone to his kitchen to fetch an ashtray when he heard a noise. “I thought a cat had entered the apartment but then the ground started shaking violently under me. I ran to my balcony thinking I would jump off if need be,” Dogan recalled. “I was terrified.”
Drama unfolded across the region as people trapped under the rubble cried for help using their cell phones. In the city of Sanliurfa bordering Syria, a child was rescued from under the remains of a seven-story building. Rescue workers could be seen getting her out, her face dazed, hair and body covered in dust.
The authorities are calling on people who are in the affected provinces to stay outdoors as aftershocks continue. The average temperature in the region varies between 38 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit with Kahramanaras, the epicenter of the temblor, under heavy snowfall.
Oktay said in addition to the rescue efforts, accommodation and nourishment of people in the affected regions would be the top priority.
As people who have family members in the affected region are rushing to the area, authorities are calling on the public to keep the roads open for rescue teams.
The Turkish Defense Ministry declared a state of emergency across the affected zone. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said several rescue teams have been dispatched to the affected areas.
Turkey has been experiencing severe communication and internet disruptions since the earthquake. The phone lines are completely down across the country’s southern region, with authorities calling on the public not to use their phones if they are not located in the impacted zones.
Oktay said natural gas flows to the affected regions were cut off as a precaution. Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said electricity for hospitals, bakeries and soup kitchens would be provided by mobile power stations that were dispatched to the region. Kerem Kinik, chair of the Red Crescent Society of Turkey, called for blood donations. Schools will remain closed for 10 days in the impacted provinces.
Erdogan said 45 countries as well as the EU and NATO have offered to send help.
The EU described the earthquake as “one of the strongest earthquakes in the region in more than 100 years.” Its European Civil Protection Mechanism unit has been launched to help Turkey and Syria.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington stands ready to provide any needed assistance.
“President Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the government of Turkey,” he said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was in touch with Erdogan and the alliance is mobilizing support.
Full solidarity with our Ally #Turkiye in the aftermath of this terrible earthquake. I am in touch with President @RTErdogan and Foreign Minister @MevlutCavusoglu, and #NATO Allies are mobilizing support now. — Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) Feb. 6, 2023
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is preparing to send aid to both Turkey and Syria following the two devastating earthquakes.
“In accordance with the request of the Turkish government, I have directed the dispatch of search and rescue and medical teams,” Netanyahu said.
Earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant each spoke with their Turkish counterpart to offer Israeli assistance, an offer accepted by Turkish authorities.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said that war-torn areas of Syria were hit hard by the earthquake and that displaced people are particularly vulnerable due to the harsh winter weather affecting the area.
“Initial reports from IRC staff on the ground in Syria indicate that the impact has been devastating in areas that already host a high number of displaced and vulnerable families,” said the organization. “This tragic incident comes just after the country was hit by a snowstorm that has seen temperatures plummet.”
Coming just months before critical presidential and parliamentary elections and in the midst of a deepening economic crisis, the earthquake poses huge challenges to Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The failures of a previous government to provide timely and adequate assistance following a 7.4 earthquake in 1999 that claimed at least 20,000 lives had helped catapult the AKP to power in 2002.
The earthquake also affected parts of Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the Caucasus, according to the US Geological Survey.