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Earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria

Earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria


Deadly earthquakes have struck Turkey and Syria. Could they have been better prepared?

Around quarter past four on Monday morning, just a few hours before dawn, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

The tremor lasted for around 60 seconds. 

And just minutes later, the first of dozens of aftershocks hit.

Those who could escape rushed outside towards open spaces… but many were left trapped under fallen buildings.

[Clip: actuality of a building collapsing]

Videos show people standing in their pyjamas in the snow as rescuers frantically searched through debris for survivors.

[Clip: actuality of rescuers searching through rubble]

And as dawn broke the scale of the damage, and the growing death toll, became clearer.

Entire sections of Gaziantep, home to around two million people, had been destroyed.

“In some areas whole neighbourhoods are reported to have collapsed… hundreds of buildings have been destroyed by the earthquake and rescue workers are searching through piles of collapsed concentre and twisted metal.”

Sky News

But the devastation wasn’t just in Gaziantep.

At least nine other Turkish cities were affected by the quake.

And Gazianetep sits close to Turkey’s border with Syria where buildings across the country’s northwestern cities and villages were hit. Many of which are rebel-held. 

The death toll in both countries continues to rise.

“Some of the worst reports of devastation are coming out of northwest Syria where many buildings are already damaged from 12 years of civil war and there are hundreds of thousands of refugees”

Sky News

“Now they’re not in camps, the vast majority are in the city itself. This means conditions are very crowded there and one can only imagine just what it’s like when one of those buildings collapses.”

BBC News

Syria is already facing a severe humanitarian crisis thanks to the civil war.

Millions have been forced to flee, and the earthquake will displace even more people.


Rescue workers are in a race against time.

Their efforts have been hampered by severe weather as a blizzard has covered major roads in ice and snow.

“Level 4 alarm has been declared which means Turkey is calling for international assistance as well as the Turkish Red Cross relief agency issued an appeal for blood donations.”

BBC News

Turkey has declared a state of emergency and requested international help, but getting aid into rebel-held parts of Syria will be more challenging. 

And that demand on rescue efforts continues to increase. Early on Monday afternoon there was a second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5. 

This time, the epicentre was around 80 miles directly north of Gaziantep. 

An official from Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said it was “independent” from the morning’s earthquake and was “not an aftershock”. 

So, could Turkey have been better prepared for this?


Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones but this latest quake is the worst to strike the country in more than a century.  

The country’s last big quake was in 1999, when a powerful tremor struck the north-west of the country, killing at least 17,000 people.

“A lot of buildings on that occasion collapsed. When the investigators looked at them they found they had not been built to the… correct building standards… the first thing they did was prosecute a lot of the builders but hardly any of those prosecutions succeeded.”

BBC News

Authorities introduced tighter building codes in an attempt to make buildings more “earthquake proof”. 

Despite the reforms though, authorities have been accused of failing to crack down on  substandard buildings. 

As Turkey edges closer to its next general election in May, president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be expected to show a strong and effective response to the disaster. 

For now though, people in Turkey, and in Syria, wait in hope that more survivors will be pulled out alive from under the rubble. 

This episode was written and mixed by Imy Harper.