Thousands of collapsed buildings, widespread destruction, and deep anguish were reported alongside over 2,300 dead and thousands more injured after a pair of earthquakes — an initial 7.8 tremor on the Richter scale in the early morning and another that measured 7.5 — devastated Syria and Turkey on Monday.
Amid dozens of aftershocks — and the quakes being also felt in Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories — the full scale of the destruction and the ultimate death toll remains unknown, though early estimates of the dead and wounded were rising by the hour.
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the quakes as the most severe in the nation since 1939.
The first quake occurred just after 4:00 am local time in Kahramanmaras province, north of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, while the second took place in the southeastern Turkey.
One television crew was reporting on the first quake in the city of Malatya, when the second one hit:
According to Al-Jazeera:
Rescuers were digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep. Crumbled buildings were also reported in Adiyaman, Malatya and Diyarbakir.
The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 339, according to Syrian state media, with deaths reported in the cities of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Tartous.
Around the globe, human rights champions and political leaders offered sympathy to those impacted by the disaster and vowed emergency assistance to both Turkey and Syria.
Agnes Callamard, head of Amnesty International, said her organization was “in deep sorrow” following news of the disaster.
“We extend our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, and call for the Governments and international community to provide speedy search and relief,” Callamard said.
Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations, said, “We at UNHCR stand in solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria affected by today’s devastating earthquake and are ready to help provide urgent relief to the survivors through our field teams wherever possible.”