Written by 3:53 pm In the News

Quakes rattle Turkey, Syria

Powerful earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria killed over 2,300 people on Monday, sparked frantic rescues and was felt as far away as Greenland.

The first 7.8-magnitude quake struck at 04:17 am (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 18 kilometres (11 miles) near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which is home to around two million people, the US Geological Survey said.

It was followed by a slightly smaller 7.5-magnitude tremor and more than 50 aftershocks.

At least 810 people were killed in Syria as buildings collapsed and many remained trapped, state media and rescuers said.

Rescuers used heavy equipment and their bare hands to peel back rubble in search of survivors, who they could in some cases hear begging for help under the debris.

AFP correspondents in northern Syria said terrified residents ran out of their homes after the earthquake hit before dawn near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Syrian border.

The US Geological Survey said quake was centred about 33 kilometres (20 miles) from Gaziantep about 26 kilometres (16 miles) from the town of Nurdagi. It was centred 18 kilometres (11 miles) deep, according to the US Geological Survey.

US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened” and promised his country’s assistance.

The Vatican said that Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” by the major earthquake in Turkey and Syria. “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the huge loss of life caused by the earthquake… he sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected,” wrote the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a statement.

India is sending search and rescue teams, doctors, medicine and materials to Turkey.

Israel said on Monday that it had received a Syrian request for assistance with earthquake relief for the Arab state and that it was prepared to oblige, in what would be rare cooperation between the enemy neighbours. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech he had ordered Israeli aid sent to Turkey,

At a hospital in Syria, Osama Abdel Hamid was holding back tears as he recalled on Monday the powerful earthquake that toppled his home and killed his neighbours, along with hundreds of his compatriots.

“We were fast asleep when we felt a huge earthquake,” Abdel Hamid told AFP at Al-Rahma hospital in the northwestern Idlib province, where he was being treated for a head injury.

The United Nations General Assembly observed a minute of silence on Monday in tribute to the victims of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,300 people in Syria andTurkey.

“Our teams are on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance. We count on the international community to help the thousands of families hit by this disaster, many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Britain is sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists with equipment and dogs, as well as an emergency medical team, to Turkey.

The UK government said the teams, due later Monday, were bringing equipment including seismic listening devices, concrete cutting and breaking equipment, propping and shoring tools.

A number of other countries joined the expanding international relief effort, including the United Arab Emirates which will set up a field hospital in Turkey and Qatar which was sending rescuers and emergency supplies.

Romania, Spain and Poland joined a European Union effort, sending rescuers, medics, dogs and specialised equipment. While most of the international aid was headed for Turkey, Russia said it also planned to send assistance directly to its close ally Syria.

Russian rescue workers will fly to Syria and Turkey after a huge earthquake killed about 1,700 people and injured thousands more, the Kremlin said on Monday.

Russia backed Assad in Syria’s civil war, launching a military campaign that helped turn the tide of the conflict in his favour even though the West had called for the Syrian leader to go. Russia has a naval base in Tartus, on the Syrian coast, and operates the Khmeimim air base north of Tartus. Russia’s defence ministry said its military facilities in Syria had not been damaged by the earthquake. Separately, an official from Russia’s state atomic energy company Rosatom said the Akkuyu nuclear power plant it is building in southern Turkey was also not damaged by the quake.


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