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Quake toll hits 4,000 in Turkey and Syria as rescue teams arrive

Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Rescue teams from overseas began arriving in Turkey on Tuesday after a pair of powerful earthquakes a day earlier killed at least 4,000 people in the country and neighboring Syria, leaving millions to suffer without power or heat throughout a snowy night.

As dawn neared, people in both countries were set to spend a second day searching through the ruins of thousands of buildings left damaged or demolished by a magnitude 7.7 quake that hit near the Turkish city of Gaziantep on Monday morning. Another temblor measured at 7.6 struck nearby just nine hours later, according to Turkey’s disaster response management agency, known as AFAD.

Rescue teams from Romania, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Lebanon have been sent to the quake zone, Turkey’s Deputy President Fuat Oktay said.

The defense ministry said Turkey’s military has started evacuating some of the injured via navy ships from the Iskenderun port in the easternmost corner of the Mediterranean while working to set up field hospitals in the quake zone. More than 330,000 quake victims have been moved into hostels and university campuses, Oktay said.

“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 strongest disaster in a century.” Speaking on Monday before the second quake struck, he said it was impossible to speculate about the final death toll. Turkey later declared seven days of mourning.


The death count stood at 2,921 in Turkey early Tuesday, according to the country’s disaster agency, while the Associated Press said more than 1,000 killed in Syria. The quakes left almost 16,000 injured in Turkey as a shortage of gasoline in the quake zone hampered the rescue operation, reports said.

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 6,200 buildings have collapsed in Turkey, authorities 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.


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