Deadly Earthquakes Shake Turkey and Syria

As international rescuers travel to the war-ravaged region, witnesses describe freezing temperatures among razed cities and villages.

AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed
By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 6, 2023 16:11 UTC
AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed

This is a devel­op­ing story. Check back for updates. (Updated Feb. 8, 2023 14:38 UTC)

Amid rolling hills dot­ted with olive trees, men, women and chil­dren are seen shiv­er­ing among the wreck­age of homes, build­ings and vehi­cles.

Temperatures hover around freez­ing as inter­mit­tent rain and snow fall across much of south­east­ern Turkey and north­ern Syria in the after­math of the region’s strongest earth­quakes of the past 70 years.

Nearly 10,000 peo­ple have been killed and 35,000 injured after two pow­er­ful earth­quakes shook the region on Monday. The first struck just after 4 a.m. local time, mea­sur­ing 7.8 on the Richter scale. Then a sec­ond, 7.6 mag­ni­tude earth­quake fol­lowed at about 12 p.m. local time.

See Also:Turkish Parliament Stops Coal Mining Operations in Olive Groves

The earth­quake and its after­shocks flat­tened more than 3,000 build­ings in a 500-kilo­me­ter radius of its epi­cen­ter, located kilo­me­ters away from Gaziantep, Turkey. Tremors from the quake, the most pow­er­ful in the region since 1939, could be felt as far away as Egypt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said every insti­tu­tion in the world’s sec­ond-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation would be mobi­lized in res­cue and relief efforts.


Civil defense workers and residents search through the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Harem near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 (Ghaith Alsayed AP)

We are also coor­di­nat­ing our work after the earth­quake,” Erdoğan said, accord­ing to the state-run Anadolu Agency. We hope that we will get through this dis­as­ter together as soon as pos­si­ble and with the least dam­age, and we con­tinue our work.”

The White Helmets, a civil defense unit oper­at­ing in north­west­ern Syria, declared the region a dis­as­ter zone,” accord­ing to Anadolu Agency, and called for urgent help amid lack of capa­bil­i­ties and ser­vices, a short­age of shel­ters and stormy and freez­ing weather.”

The Syrian American Medical Society, a non-profit, said its hos­pi­tals in Aleppo are over­whelmed with patients fill­ing the hall­ways.”

Rescue teams from more than a dozen coun­tries are en route to the war-rav­aged region, home to an esti­mated 6 mil­lion refugees from the ongo­ing civil war in Syria.

So far, an inter­na­tional effort com­pris­ing 10,000 res­cue work­ers has man­aged to pull 8,000 sur­vivors from the rub­ble of col­lapsed build­ings in Turkey. Figures from Syria are more dif­fi­cult to ver­ify.

However, vil­lagers in rural Turkey have told The New York Times that they fear res­cue work­ers will not arrive in time to save thou­sands of lives.

It has been hours since the earth­quake and so many peo­ple are search­ing for their loved ones,” Nuray Kabatas, a res­i­dent of Gaziantep with rel­a­tives in sur­round­ing towns, told the paper. The res­cue oper­a­tions are all in the cities, by the time they get to the vil­lages it could be too late.”

Mustafa Tan, the chair­man of the Turkish national olive and olive oil coun­cil, con­firmed to Olive Oil Times the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing the coun­try and its olive oil sec­tor after the nat­ural dis­as­ter.“

Many peo­ple have lost their lives as a result of the earth­quakes in our coun­try and in neigh­bor­ing Syria,” he said. This num­ber is increas­ing even more. Our wish is that the injured will recover as soon as pos­si­ble, and those trapped under the cave-in will be found alive.”

We are sad as a fam­ily,” Tan added. Thank God there are no casu­al­ties in our fam­ily. But, of course, there are impor­tant olive grow­ers and busi­nesses in the region. This is also some bad news. But we don’t have enough infor­ma­tion yet.”

Southeastern Turkey and north­ern Syria are home to some of the coun­tries’ most fruit­ful olive-grow­ing regions.

Ample rain­falls and pro­duc­ers enter­ing the on-year’ in the olive trees’ nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle were attrib­uted to bumper har­vests in both coun­tries in the 2022/23 crop year.

According to International Olive Council data, Syria pro­duced 134,500 tons of olive oil, while Turkey enjoyed a record-high yield of 380,000 tons.

However, the wind­falls enjoyed by the region will be short-lived. The United States Geological Survey esti­mated that up to $1 bil­lion of dam­age has been done by earth­quakes and their after­shocks.

Seismologists blame poor enforce­ment of local build­ing codes for the immense rate of destruc­tion in Turkey, while infra­struc­ture in north­east­ern Syria has been extremely dam­aged by the decade-long con­flict, increas­ing the risk to human life from an earth­quake.

Share this article


Related Articles