Istanbul, Turkey (NT) — The ground shook and shattered their world, leaving behind only chaos and loss. As the people of Turkey and Syria tried to make sense of the devastating earthquake that struck them, the toll of the tragedy continued to rise. More than 4,000 lives have been taken and countless others have been left injured, with rescuers working tirelessly to reach those still trapped beneath the rubble.
The earthquake, one of the strongest to hit the region in a hundred years, struck in the early hours of Monday, sending tremors far and wide. The impact was felt in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Israel, but the devastation was concentrated in Turkey and Syria, where homes and lives were destroyed in an instant.
In Turkey, the death toll has reached an overwhelming 1,498, with several thousand injured, while in Syria, the tragedy has claimed at least 820 lives. The impact of the earthquake was felt across the country, with reports of deaths and devastation coming in from government-controlled areas as well as opposition-controlled regions. The “White Helmets”, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, have reported 390 deaths in opposition-controlled areas, while the Syrian state news agency SANA reported 430 deaths in government-controlled areas.
The pain and suffering in both countries is immense, and the road to recovery will be long and arduous. But in the face of such a devastating tragedy, the people of Turkey and Syria remain strong, determined to rebuild their lives and communities.
Monday’s earthquake was a brutal reminder of the destructive power of nature. It is believed to be the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when a quake of similar magnitude claimed the lives of 30,000 people. The rarity of such a disaster is palpable, with fewer than five earthquakes of this magnitude occurring on average each year anywhere in the world.
But the tragedy in Turkey is not an isolated incident. The area is prone to seismic activity, with seven quakes registering a magnitude of 7.0 or greater striking the country in the past 25 years. However, none were as powerful as Monday’s quake, which left a devastating trail of destruction in its wake.
Karl Lang, an expert in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech University, says the area is prone to seismic activity due to a large fault zone. He adds that Monday’s quake is larger than any that has been experienced in recent memory.
The devastation caused by Monday’s quake serves as a somber reminder of the constant threat posed by earthquakes and the need for preparedness and resilience.
As the earth shook with a force that shattered buildings and shattered lives, Dr. Mazen Kewara, Turkey director of the Syrian American Medical Society, took refuge in his car, unable to return to his building. “Maybe for hours. Maybe until tomorrow. I don’t know,” he says, describing the devastating aftermath of the earthquake in Gaziantep. His medical organization, SAMS, is now facing the daunting task of providing aid, hindered by the severe damage to four of their hospitals.
Journalist Eyad Kourdi, who was at home in Gaziantep with his parents when the quake struck, recalls the horror of the moment. “It felt like it would never be over,” he says, describing the moment when the shaking finally stopped. In the aftermath, he and his parents stepped out of their home in their pajamas, waiting in the rain with snow on the ground for a chance to gather their coats and boots.
The aftermath of the quake has been compounded by intense aftershocks that have shaken southern and central Turkey. An aftershock of 6.7 magnitude hit just 11 minutes after the main quake, followed 19 minutes later by another intense aftershock with a magnitude of 5.6. The scale of the destruction is overwhelming, and the emotional toll on the survivors is immeasurable.