A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey on Monday morning, crumbling homes, killing more than 3,800 people and leaving devastation across a wide swath of the country and into northern Syria. The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed the magnitude of the pre-dawn quake and said a second temblor, registering magnitude 7.5, struck just hours after the first one and not far away.
In Turkey, 2,379 people were killed and 14,483 were injured, Vice President Fuat Otkay said. In the government-held areas of neighboring Syria, which is still being rocked by violence from a decadelong civil war, the Health Ministry said 711 people were killed. Civilian rescue agencies that operate in Syria’s rebel-held northwest said over 740 people were killed there, with hundreds more injured.
Frantic search efforts were still underway in both countries, with rescuers digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings to find any survivors and remove the bodies of the dead.
The first powerful quake struck before dawn on a rainy and snowy night. It was felt as far away as Cairo, Cyprus, Lebanon and even in Greenland and Denmark.
Many governments immediately offered assistance, including the United States, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Russia and Ukraine.
In the quake-devastated town of Jandairis in northern Syria, a dazed father cradles the body of his lifeless baby, saying over and over, “Wake up, my boy, wake up.”
“Ya Allah, ya Allah (My God, my God…),” he sobs, kissing the infant’s head. “They have torn my heart out.”
Dozens of homes crumpled in this town on the border with Turkey when the earth began to shake at 4:17 a.m. on Monday.
Residents used their bare hands and pickaxes to search the rubble for survivors as that was all they had to get the job done.
In another street, outside what was once a building, a young man in a state of shock holds his nephew in his arms.
He is still alive, but the young man, named Samer al-Saraqbi, has lost 12 of his family members, including his mother, his sister and her family in the earthquake.
His surviving nephew Ahmad — just 7 years old — has lost both parents and three of his siblings.
“Their mother and father will never come back,” sobs Saraqbi.