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Twin earthquakes kill almost 2,000 in Turkey and Syria

Selcan Hacaoglu, Firat Kozok, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Some of the most powerful Middle East earthquakes in decades killed almost 2,000 people in Turkey and Syria and forced a halt in crude oil flows to a regional export terminal.

A pre-dawn earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 hit the Turkish city of Gaziantep on Monday morning and a second measured at 7.6 struck nearby just nine hours later, according to Turkey’s disaster response management agency. The quakes killed about 1,500 people in Turkey, while more than 460 perished in Syria.

As night fell and snowfall increased, millions of people were left in the cold without heating gas, electricity or gasoline for their cars. Among them were many of Turkey’s 3.7 million registered Syrian refugees, the biggest refugee population in the world.

“We are desperately waiting for help from neighboring provinces but they are not coming because they’ve also been hit badly,” 48-year-old Murat Gencogullari said by phone from the border province of Hatay. Several buildings had collapsed in the area, burying people under tons of concrete and twisted metal, he said. “Local authorities are struggling to cope but the damage is so widespread and heavy.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is facing the “the strongest disaster in a century.” Speaking before the second quake, he said it was impossible to speculate about the final death toll.

The quakes left more than 8,500 people injured in Turkey and 1,000 others in Syria. At least four Turkish airports were damaged, said authorities, who were tracking calls for help on social media from people who were believed to be trapped under the rubble. More than 2,800 buildings have collapsed in Turkey, Erdogan said.


Turkey stopped oil flows to Ceyhan export terminal on the Mediterranean coast as a precaution, although no leaks were detected on the pipelines feeding crude to the facility, according to an official with direct knowledge of the matter. Iraqi Kurdistan suspended oil exports through Turkey to the terminal, the Ministry of Natural Resources in Kurdistan said.

Ceyhan is a vital hub for oil sales from northern Iraq and from Azerbaijan. The port exported over 1 million barrels a day in January, or 1% of global oil supplies. The news helped push up prices on Monday.

Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. The disaster affected several southern Turkish provinces stretching hundreds of kilometers, where about 13 million people are bracing for colder winter temperatures. Erdogan, who is facing general elections in May, dispatched several cabinet ministers to the area.

Some parts of the local gas network were hit, stopping supply to Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces, Turkish state pipeline company Botas said.


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