The death toll surpassed 2,300 and was rising Monday after a powerful, pre-dawn earthquake and series of strong aftershocks collapsed thousands of buildings along the Turkish-Syrian border.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.8 quake struck at 4:17 a.m. local time. Scores of aftershocks followed, authorities said. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude quake struck more than 60 miles away.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death toll had risen to almost 1,500, with at least 8,500 injured in his country alone.
In Syria, the death toll in government-held areas surpassed 430, and 1,280 were injured, the Syrian Health Ministry reported. In rebel-held areas, more than 380 people were killed, according to Syrian Civil Defense – the White Helmets.
Hundreds were believed trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers dug through the wreckage. Thousands of survivors were left homeless in the cold rain and snow.
There were also stories of rescue as first responders and volunteers, some with detection dogs, picked through the rubble. The Turkish defense ministry released video of a mother and her 2-year-old child being extricated safely from rubble in the city of Gaziantep.
“Hurry up please because my daughter is passing out,” the woman says as rescuers work feverishly to save them. The young girl is rescued first, and responders assure the woman that “your child has been rescued, she is alive.” A few minutes later the woman is brought to safety.
►Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country “stands ready to send a large group of rescue workers to Turkey to assist crisis response.”
►Erdogan called the quake the biggest disaster since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake that killed more than 30,000 people. The region sits on top of major fault lines and about 18,000 were killed in earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.
►Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said at least 78 aftershocks followed the quake.
►Russia says it is readying rescue teams to fly to Turkey to help earthquake victims there and in neighboring Syria.
srael puts conflict aside, offers aid to Syria
Israel has said it will send search and rescue and medical teams to Turkey and Syria. Syria does not recognize Israel and the two countries have remained at war, at least technically, since Israel was established 1948. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had requests from and ordered aid airlifts to both countries.
“This is what we do around the world and this is what we do in areas close to us,” Netanyahu said.
China also offered to aid Syria. “Beijing is ready to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Syria according to the needs,” spokesman for the China International Development Cooperation Agency, Xu Wei, told the Xinhua news agency.
Quake struck region already torn by civil war
The quake struck a region that has been battered on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the region is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.
About 4 million people live in the opposition-held regions in Syria, many of them displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of the residential buildings were already unsafe because of bombardments.
Thousands pulled from toppled buildings
Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 200 miles to the northeast. Erdogan said he spoke with several mayors who reported almost 3,000 buildings had collapsed. About 2,500 people were pulled from the rubble, he said. Schools across much of the country will be closed for at least one week, and schools closer to the quake for two weeks, officials said.
Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said all national sports organizations to be held in Turkey have been suspended until further notice.
Biden offers aid as rescuers hunt for survivors
Over 9,000 personnel were carrying out search and rescue operations in Turkey and more support from other regions was on the way, Erdogan said.
“We have started to be contacted for international aid,” he said. “Besides offers of assistance by NATO and the EU, 45 countries have reached out to us.”
The Biden administration issued a statement expressing concern, adding that “we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance.” President Joe Biden has directed USAID and other federal government agencies to “assess U.S. response options to help those most affected,” coordinating efforts with the Turkish government.
Map of earthquake area
Trapped survivors call for help
Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.
“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by telephone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”
In Turkey, student Muhammet Fatih Yavus said three buildings fell near his home in Adana. He said he heard one survivor calling out from beneath the rubble: “I don’t have the strength anymore.”
Quake felt in Egypt, Lebanon
In Damascus, buildings shook and residents ran into the streets. The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes, driving their cars away from buildings, terrorized by memories of the 2020 port explosion that wrecked a large portion of the city.
EU Council president pledges support
Condolences and offers of aid poured in from world leaders.
“Deeply saddened to hear this morning about the devastating earthquake hitting parts of Türkiye and Syria. My deepest condolences to the many families that lost lives and wishing a fast recovery of the injured,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter. “The EU stands in full solidarity with you.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “My thoughts are with the people of Türkiye and Syria this morning, particularly with those first responders working so valiantly to save those trapped by the earthquake. The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”
Turkey creates ‘air aid corridor’ to deliver rescuers to the region
National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said a large number of military transport planes began to dispatch search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes also take part in the “air aid corridor,” Akar said.
“We have maximized the readiness of our aircraft to provide the necessary transportation service,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Earthquake live updates: Turkey, Syria death toll; strong aftershocks