(Photo credit: Omer Yildiz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Over 500 people died, and thousands were injured during a 7.8-degree earthquake that shook Turkiye and Syria in the early hours of 6 February, leaving behind collapsed buildings and triggering searches for survivors in the rubble.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay announced Monday morning that at least 284 people have been confirmed dead, with over 2,000 injured. He also revealed more than 1,700 buildings collapsed in Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras provinces.
In Syria, Assistant Health Minister Ahmed Dhamiriyeh revealed that 237 people died and 639 were injured.
The quake was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon; however, neither country reported casualties or significant damage. The earthquake came as the region is experiencing a snowstorm expected to last until Thursday.
People in Damascus and the Lebanese cities of Beirut and Tripoli ran into the street and took to their cars to escape their buildings in case they collapsed.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.8 quake struck at a depth of 17.9 km.
Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said that the quake struck at 4:17 am local time and was centered in the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras Province.
According to local reports in northwest Syria, the nation’s healthcare system has been “overwhelmed” by the catastrophe.
“The effort should be focused on the humanitarian response, especially in shelter and health to protect the population of more than 1.5 million people in northwest Syria alone,” Mazen Kiwara, West Asia’s regional director for the Syrian American Medical Society, told Al Jazeera.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad chaired an emergency cabinet meeting early on Monday to formulate a response plan to the catastrophe that ravaged the governorates of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia.
During the meeting, Assad ordered the immediate mobilization of civil defense, rescue teams, and medical personnel to the affected areas. Officials were also called to secure food and shelter for those affected. At the same time, the concerned ministers are expected to travel to the northwest to supervise search and rescue and aid operations.
In Turkiye, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to travel to the affected region. According to reports from Ankara, large trucks filled with aid are being deployed to help the population.
This is the most severe earthquake to hit Turkiye since 1999, when a similar magnitude quake devastated Izmit and the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.