Houses are collapsing and burying their residents, in freezing temperatures rescuers are looking for survivors – a devastating earthquake has cost the lives of more than 600 people in Turkey and Syria. There were a large number of aftershocks. The 7.4 magnitude tremor shook southeastern Turkey early Monday morning. According to the civil protection agency Afad, the epicenter was in the province of Kahramanmaras near the Syrian border. Another earthquake of magnitude 6.6 was measured shortly afterwards in the province of Gaziantep.

At least 284 victims were counted in Turkey in the morning, according to Vice President Fuat Oktay. More than 2000 people were injured. For Syria, Deputy Health Minister Ahmed Dhamirijeh said 230 had died and more than 600 had been injured in several provinces on state television. The aid organization SAMS, which works in rebel-controlled areas in Syria, reported more than 100 more dead.

According to the state news agency Sana, buildings in numerous cities in Syria collapsed. Rescue teams tried to pull people out of the rubble during the night and at dawn. According to Sana, the head of the National Earthquake Center, Raed Ahmed, said this was the strongest earthquake in Syria since 1995. President Bashar al-Assad called his cabinet for an emergency meeting. Videos showed mountains of rubble from the province of Idlib, among other things, with entire rows of houses sometimes collapsing.

“Hospitals are overloaded with seriously injured people”

“We are responding with everything we can to save those who are under the rubble,” said the head of the White Helmets rescue organization, Raed Al Saleh. “The hospitals are overloaded with seriously injured people,” said a spokesman for the organization. Rain and cold made operations even more difficult. “We urgently need the help of the international community,” said Basel Termanini, chairman of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), the dpa. The situation was “catastrophic”.

According to the interior minister, several provinces in Turkey are affected. buildings had collapsed. Rescue teams from across the country would be pulled together. In addition, alarm level four was declared and international help was requested. There were a total of 22 aftershocks, some strong.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter, “We hope that we can get through this disaster together in the shortest possible time and with as little damage as possible.”

Federal government promises help

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have promised help after the severe earthquake in the Turkish-Syrian border area. “Of course Germany will send help,” Scholz (SPD) wrote on Twitter on Monday and was dismayed by the news from the affected areas. “The death toll continues to rise. We mourn with the relatives and fear for those buried.”

Baerbock promised: “We will quickly get help with our partners.” The Green politician also wrote on Twitter that one woke up on Monday “with terrible news” from Turkey and Syria. “My thoughts are with the families of the victims of this terrible

Despite severe tensions with Turkey, Greece agreed to send rescue teams to the neighboring country’s earthquake zone. “Greece will help immediately,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Israel also wants to provide Turkey with humanitarian aid. Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant instructed the army and defense ministry on Monday to make appropriate preparations. “Our security forces are ready to provide any necessary assistance,” Galant said. Israel has experience with emergencies and saving lives.

The Israeli rescue service Zaka announced that they are preparing to send an aid delegation. This should help with the search in collapsed houses.

Israeli President Izchak Herzog offered his condolences to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and to the Turkish people. “I am deeply saddened by the tremendous disaster that has befallen Turkey following last night’s earthquake,” he said on Twitter. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also expressed his condolences and announced that his ministry would help.

Numerous buildings have collapsed

Turkey is repeatedly affected by severe earthquakes. Two of the largest continental plates meet there: the African and the Eurasian. In fact, most of the Turkish population lives in constant danger of earthquakes.

In October 2020, more than 100 people died in Izmir in one of the most serious earthquakes in recent years. In 1999, Turkey was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in its history: a magnitude 7.4 earthquake in the region around the north-western industrial city of Izmit claimed the lives of more than 17,000 people. Experts are also expecting a strong earthquake in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, in the near future.