‘Working against time’: A frantic search for survivors after quake hits Turkey, Syria; 2,500 dead: Live updates.

Written by on February 6, 2023

The death toll surpassed 2,500 and was rising Monday after a powerful, pre-dawn earthquake and series of strong aftershocks collapsed thousands of buildings along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.8 quake struck at 4:17 a.m. local time. Scores of aftershocks followed, authorities said. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude quake struck more than 60 miles away.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death toll had risen to over 1,600, and at least 11,000 people are injured in his country alone.

TO OFFER SUPPORT:How you can help earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria: These groups are taking donations

In Syria, the death toll in government-held areas surpassed 539, and 1,300 were injured, the Syrian Health Ministry reported. In rebel-held areas, more than 380 people were killed, according to Syrian Civil Defense – the White Helmets.

Hundreds were believed trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers dug through the wreckage. Thousands of survivors were left homeless in the cold rain and snow.

There were also stories of rescues as first responders and volunteers, some with detection dogs, picked through the rubble. The Turkish defense ministry released video of a mother and her 2-year-old child being extricated safely from rubble in the city of Gaziantep.

“Hurry up please because my daughter is passing out,” the woman says as rescuers work feverishly to save them. The young girl is rescued first, and responders assure the woman that “your child has been rescued, she is alive.” A few minutes later the woman is brought to safety.

People and emergency teams search for people in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.


►British Premier League soccer team Newcastle United FC tweeted that it was “praying for some positive news” on the fate of former teammate Christian Atsu, who is reportedly among those trapped under the rubble in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras. Atsu, a Ghana native, signed with the Turkish team Hatayspor.

►Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country “stands ready to send a large group of rescue workers to Turkey to assist crisis response.”

►Erdogan called the quake the country’s biggest disaster since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake that killed more than 30,000 people. The region sits on top of major fault lines and about 18,000 were killed in earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

►Russia says it is readying rescue teams to fly to Turkey to help victims there and in neighboring Syria.

DEADLY QUAKE:More than 1,300 dead after powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes near Turkey-Syria border

Hope sinks as night falls

Workers were still sawing away slabs and still pulling out bodies in the darkness Monday as desperate families waited for news of loved ones. In the Turkish city of Adana, Imran Bahur begged workers to find her daughter and her family in the rubble of a destroyed apartment building.

“My grandson is 1 1/2 years old. Please help them, please,” Bahur said. “We can’t hear them or get any news from them since morning. Please, they were on the 12th floor.”

UN, World Health Organization respond

U.N. General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi extended “deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences” to people of both countries. He then asked diplomats to stand and observe a minute of silence in in memory of those who died.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the U.N. was counting on the international community to help those caught up in the disaster, “many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge.” Specialist U.N. surge teams from the Office of U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination tweeted that they were “ready to deploy”

Emergency medical teams from the World Health Organization have been sent to provide essential care for the injured and most vulnerable, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted.

Time, cold biggest problems facing rescuers

Erdogan adviser lnur Cevik said resources are not the problem hampering rescues efforts. 

“You are working against time,” he told BBC. “The adverse weather conditions and people that are under the rubble, you have to save them before the weather drops in and kills these people because of the cold. So people who are now under the rubble, there’s a mad rush to get them out.”

Cevik said searchers are using radar and body sensors to find survivors “but you know there’s so much widespread devastation that you can’t reach everywhere.”

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said no structural risk remains after “all dams in region inspected” following the quake

Israel puts conflict aside, offers aid to Syria

Israel has said it will send search and rescue and medical teams to Turkey and Syria. Syria does not recognize Israel and the two countries have remained at war, at least technically, since Israel was established 1948. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had requests from and ordered aid airlifts to both countries.

“This is what we do around the world and this is what we do in areas close to us,” Netanyahu said.

China also offered to aid Syria. “Beijing is ready to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Syria according to the needs,” spokesman for the China International Development Cooperation Agency, Xu Wei, told the Xinhua news agency.

Quake struck region already torn by civil war

The quake struck a region that has been battered on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the region is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.

About 4 million people live in the opposition-held regions in Syria, many of them displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of the residential buildings were already unsafe because of bombardments. 

TRAGEDY IN TURKEY:Photos capture devastating aftermath of powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake

Thousands pulled from toppled buildings

Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 200 miles to the northeast. Erdogan said he spoke with several mayors who reported almost 3,000 buildings had collapsed. About 2,500 people were pulled from the rubble, he said. Schools across much of the country will be closed for at least one week, and schools closer to the quake for two weeks, officials said.

Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said all national sports organizations to be held in Turkey have been suspended until further notice.

DEVELOPING INTO THE NIGHT: For more updates, sign up for USA TODAY’S Evening Briefing.

Biden offers aid as rescuers hunt for survivors

Over 9,000 personnel were carrying out search and rescue operations in Turkey and more support from other regions was on the way, Erdogan said.

“We have started to be contacted for international aid,” he said. “Besides offers of assistance by NATO and the EU, 45 countries have reached out to us.”

The Biden administration issued a statement expressing concern, adding that “we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance.” President Joe Biden has directed USAID and other federal government agencies to “assess U.S. response options to help those most affected,” coordinating efforts with the Turkish government. 

Map of earthquake area

Trapped survivors call for help

Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by telephone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”

In Turkey, student Xinhua news agency quoted a said three buildings fell near his home in Adana. He said he heard one survivor calling out from beneath the rubble: “I don’t have the strength anymore.”

Quake felt in Egypt, Lebanon

In Damascus, buildings shook and residents ran into the streets. The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes, driving their cars away from buildings, terrorized by memories of the 2020 port explosion that wrecked a large portion of the city.

EU Council president pledges support

Condolences and offers of aid poured in from world leaders.

“Deeply saddened to hear this morning about the devastating earthquake hitting parts of Türkiye and Syria. My deepest condolences to the many families that lost lives and wishing a fast recovery of the injured,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter. “The EU stands in full solidarity with you.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “My thoughts are with the people of Türkiye and Syria this morning, particularly with those first responders working so valiantly to save those trapped by the earthquake. The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”

Turkey creates ‘air aid corridor’ to deliver rescuers to the region

National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said a large number of military transport planes began to dispatch search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes also take part in the “air aid corridor,” Akar said.

“We have maximized the readiness of our aircraft to provide the necessary transportation service,” he said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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