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Twin earthquakes kill 2,000 in Turkey and Syria; millions lose power

Selcan Hacaoglu and 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 left millions in the cold as night fell and snowfall increased.

A predawn 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.

Millions are facing a night without heating gas, electricity or fuel for their cars. Authorities halted flows of crude to a regional export terminal as they searched for signs of damage along a major oil pipeline.

“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 9,700 people injured in Turkey, according to the state-run news agency, 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.


Among those affected were many of Turkey’s 3.7 million registered Syrian refugees, the biggest such population in the world.

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 more than 1 million barrels a day in January, or 1% of global oil supplies. The shutdown helped push up prices on Monday.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders offered condolences. Biden said the U.S. deployed teams to support Turkey’s search-and-rescue operations, and “U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.”


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