Thousands Feared Dead as Terrifying Earthquake Hits Turkey and Syria

A massive magnitude-7.8 earthquake and a string of aftershocks, including one with a magnitude of 6.6, have killed hundreds of people and caused catastrophic damage when the first tremor struck in the dead of night in south-east Turkey and Syria early Monday. At least 640 people were killed, according to the Associated Press. Hundreds more were injured and the toll will likely continue to rise. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the death toll was likely to exceed 1,000, with a 20 percent chance it could climb past 10,000.

The earthquake set off a string of tsunami warnings across the Mediterranean, from Greece to Italy, where people have been warned to stay away from coastal areas Monday morning.

The USGS said the quake struck 14 miles east of the Turkish district of Nurdağı, near the northern border of Syria, and was followed 11 minutes later by a magnitude 6.6 aftershock. It was 11 miles deep.

Local media reported people digging through the rubble with bare hands before heavy equipment could arrive. Reports of people crying for help under the rubble, including in Adana, Turkey, where a survivor could be heard yelling, “I don’t have the strength anymore,” according to the AP.

On the Syrian side of the border, an area housing more than 4 million people displace by the civil war was badly hit.

Several European countries announced they would be sending search and rescue crews and equipment to help comb through the mounds of rubble.

Only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have occurred in the area since 1970. The largest was a magnitude 6.7, which occurred northeast of the current earthquake on Jan. 24, 2020.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the areas affected, working through mazes of metal and slabs on concrete in cold, wet and snowy winter conditions.

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