JERUSALEM, Israel – A deadly magnitude 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday morning, flattening buildings and sending panicked residents into the rain and snow. The death toll stands at more than 2,300, but that is expected to continue to rise. The earthquake was felt as far away as Egypt and Israel.
More than 3,000 buildings either toppled or collapsed in ruins throughout cities and towns on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border.
After the quake, teams of rescue workers and residents rushed frantically to find those trapped in the rubble.
Turkey mobilized its rescue services.
Suleyman Soylu, Turkey's interior minister, called it "a devastating earthquake." He added, " All our governors are on duty now … security forces, Turkish Armed Forces, disaster and emergency management teams, Red Crescent teams and search and rescue teams from many points of Turkey.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the disaster Turkey's worst since 1939.
Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
The temblor also smashed regions in northern Syria, areas controlled by forces fighting the Syrian government, and filled with 4 million people displaced by the country's civil war.
Many of these people live in poor conditions, with little health care. Rescue workers said hospitals were filled, and the Syrian Civil Defense said the country was in a state of catastrophe, with entire neighborhoods leveled.
More than forty nations pledged help. At the request of Turkey, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sasid they would immediately provide medical and search & rescue teams, some of the best in the world.
The Magen search and rescue team will leave Monday for the quake region. The team uses specialized equipment and techniques to search for survivors.
The epicenter was 20 miles from the Turkish city of Gaziantep. At least thirty aftershocks continued to hit the region, with the strongest one measuring 7.5 magnitude.
Following the widespread devastation of the massive quake, search and rescue operations are likey to go on for many more days, followed by a tragic and long recovery.
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