Hundreds killed in powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey, Syria

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday morning, leaving more than 1,300 people dead amid collapsed buildings. The earthquake, felt as far away as Egypt, was centered about 20 miles outside of the Turkish provincial capital of Gaziantep, just north of the Syrian border, according other U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was 11 miles deep.

Turkey’s president said more than 900 people were killed in 10 provinces and more than 5,400 injured. Government-controlled areas of Syria saw more than 330 people killed and about 1,000 injured, while the Syrian American Medical Society said at least 135 people died in the rebel-held enclaves of Syria just south of the Turkish border. The numbers are likely to rise as rescue crews search flattened buildings.

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The opposition-held section of Syria, centered in Idlib province, “been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes,” The Associated Press reports. The population of some 4 million poor, displaced Syrians “depends on a flow of aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.”

“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor in the town of Atmeh, told AP, referring to the entire rebel-held area.

The earthquake at least partially destroyed Gaziantep’s most famous landmark, built under the Hittite Empire and expanded under the Romans. And it heavily damaged the historic Yeni Mosque in Malatya, built in 1894 to replace the older Haci Yusuf Mosque destroyed in an earthquake — then rebuilt after a different earthquake in 1964.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in Turkey, which is situated on major fault lines. A 1999 earthquake in northwest Turkey killed about 18,000 people.

Updated Feb. 6, 2023: This story has been updated to reflect new casualty numbers.

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