Eyewitnesses tell of the moment the earthquake hit Turkey

People in southeastern Turkey fled to the streets in shock as houses shook and collapsed due to the earthquake, many victims trapped under the rubble.

Early in the morning of February 6, Nihat Altundag and his family were sleeping in Pazarcik city, Kahramanmaras province, southeastern Turkey, when they woke up because of violent shaking. That was when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit the area, killing nearly 530 people in Turkey and Syria.

“My house is still standing, but inside there are many cracks. Many houses around have collapsed, some are on fire,” Altundag said. “A building collapsed just 200 meters from where I was standing.”

A building in Adana, Turkey, completely collapsed after today's earthquake.  Photo: AFP.

A building in Adana, Turkey, completely collapsed after the earthquake. Image: AFP.

Altundag said the quake struck while it was still dark, so the extent of the damage could not be assessed. “We know many people are trapped inside, some are buried. Everyone is out in the street now, all are scared,” he said.

“Pazarcik has become ruins,” said Huseyin Sati, another resident of the city. “The building where I live is not too tall and is built to earthquake-resistant standards, so it doesn’t collapse, but the walls are still cracked. A neighbor of mine broke a bone when he jumped from a balcony during the earthquake and is hospitalized. “.

Sati said survivors were frantically digging, assisting rescuers to remove victims from the rubble.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) said the epicenter of the quake was at a depth of about 17.9 km, near the city of Kahramanmaras, in the southeastern part of the country.

“I’ve never felt anything like it in 40 years of my life. We were shaken at least three times, like a baby in a crib,” said Erdem, who lives in the city of Gaziantep near the epicenter. .

Sinan Sahan, a businessman in Gaziantep, said he had witnessed the 1999 Istanbul earthquake that killed more than 17,000 people, but this time the disaster was “much more serious”.

“We were startled awake by the tremor and found that the electricity had gone out. We lay still, waiting for the first shaking to pass,” Sahan said. “The house was full of broken glass. We used phone flashlights to get dressed and then rushed out of the house.”

Pictures from state television TRT of Turkey shows people fleeing to the streets in the snow. Many people worked hard to dig through the rubble, trying to find survivors while it was still dark.

AFAD recorded 42 aftershocks within 2 hours of the quake, with the strongest aftershock measuring 6.6 magnitude.

“People quickly got into cars, trying to drive to gaps away from buildings,” Erdem said. “There doesn’t seem to be a single city dweller in their house.”

Residents in the capital Damascus of Syria or Lebanon also said that many people woke up when the earthquake happened, ran down the street and got into cars to leave their homes.

Yeni Mosque is partially damaged after the earthquake in Malatya, Turkey, today.  Photo: AFP.

Yeni Mosque is partially damaged after the earthquake in Malatya, Turkey, today. Image: AFP.

Turkish officials reported at least 284 deaths, while Syria recorded more than 245 deaths.

“We are afraid that the death toll will continue to rise, as a lot of people are trapped under the rubble,” said doctor Muheeb Qaddour of Atmed, Syria. AP.

Risklayer’s CATDAT earthquake loss estimate model, built by Risklayer, predicts that the number of people killed by this earthquake could be in the range of 3,200-25,900 people, while economic damage could be more than 3,200-25,900 people. 10 billion USD.

Turkish authorities declared a level 4 alert, mobilized all rescue forces and sent planes to the area, and called for international help.

Reporter Sinem Koseoglu of Al Jazeera said bad weather across Turkey could hamper search and rescue efforts in affected areas.

“Flights from Istanbul and the capital Ankara to eastern Turkey were canceled due to heavy rain and snow, making it difficult to access the site, which was also hit by snow and high winds,” she said.

Duc Trung (According to Reuters, Guardian, Al Jazeera)

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