On February 6, at 04:17 hours, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck the town of Pazarcık in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey. This was followed by another earthquake or an aftershock of magnitude 7.7 at around 13:24 hours, with the epicentre near Gözpınar and Ekinözü in Kahramanmaraş.
Tremors from both earthquakes were felt as far away as Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. However, massive destruction was reported in northern and western Syria.
Turkey is located on the Anatolian tectonic plate, making it one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. Additionally, the quakes struck in densely populated areas with non-earthquake-proof building standards.
In Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras provinces alone, close to 900 buildings were destroyed! Buildings located on the border, connecting the cities of Aleppo and Hama in Syria to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, came crashing down as well.
İskenderun may have experienced land subsidence, causing the sea level to rise and inundate the majority of the city.
Following the damage caused by the mainshocks, Hatay Airport, Adana Airport, and Gaziantep International Airport suspended flight operations.
Adverse winter weather, accompanied by rain, snowstorms, and freezing temperatures, particularly hindered the rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Turkey and Syria alike. It was also reported that the UN aid to Syria was unable to cross the border due to damaged roads and was delayed.
As the aftermath continues, anger among locals has also increased. Several contractors were arrested over poorly or illegally constructed infrastructure.
On February 13, the United Nations commented that the search and rescue operations had entered their last leg in Turkey. Rescuers used sniffer dogs and thermal cameras, especially in residential areas, to find any survivors. While in rebel-held Syria, rescue operations were completed. By February 13, there had been over 2000 aftershocks, and the combined death toll had surpassed 37,000. At least 19,000 people were injured.
As the chances of finding survivors in Syria and Turkey became slim, the focus shifted to providing humanitarian aid.
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