’Thought it was the apocalypse…’: Eyewitnesses recall horror of Turkey-Syria earthquake as death toll continues to mount

As rescue operations continue, there are fears that the death toll may rise sharply in the coming days. According to the World Health Organization up to 23 million people could be affected by the quake.

Edited By Anwesha Mitra
First Published7 Feb 2023
An aerial view shows collapsed and damaged buildings after an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
An aerial view shows collapsed and damaged buildings after an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas(REUTERS)

As a series of deadly earthquakes rippled through eastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, some thought that the apocalypse had finally arrived. Another likened the repeated quakes to being ‘shaken like a baby in a crib’. the death toll has now crossed the 5000 mark with tens of thousands of other civilians injured.

"We thought it was the apocalypse," 23-year-old Melisa Salman told news agency AFP from the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.

Another survivor told the BBC that while he and his family had barely escaped, many relatives remained under the rubble. “I barely got myself and my family out of the building. We were just coming out of the wreckage when we saw a person reach out through a small gap. The building collapsed on our friend who tried to save them. They have no chance of escape, it collapsed on them completely,” he was quoted as saying.

Emergency workers and medics rescue a woman out of the debris of a collapsed building in Kahramanmaras, in southern Turkey on Tuesday.

In spite of the freezing temperatures many survivors worked through the night - using their bare hands to try and remove debris and unearth their family, friends and anyone else sleeping inside when the first massive 7.8-magnitude quake struck.

Gaziantep resident Erdem said that it was not akin to anything he had experienced in the past 40 years. “We were shaken at least three times very strongly, like a baby in a crib.”

Also read: Turkey-Syria Earthquake Live Updates

Since Monday morning there has been close to 200 aftershocks - some far deadlier than others. This in turn has made the search through unstable structures far more perilous.

Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press she could hear her 70-year-old mother's voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in Antakya. But with no rescue crew or heavy equipment, they were unable to lift the concrete slabs above her.

Syrians search through the rubble of a house in which one entire family except a newborn baby was killed.

As the tremors continue, many also remain terrified of going home - even if the structure is still standing. Countless exhausted survivors spent the night outdoors - huddling under bus shelters, wrapped themselves in plastic to repel the freezing rain or burning debris to keep warm.

As rescue operations continue, there are fears that the death toll may rise sharply in the coming days. According to the World Health Organization up to 23 million people could be affected by the quake.

"Event overview maps show that potentially 23 million people are exposed, including around five million vulnerable populations," officials said today.

Smoke rises from burning containers at the port in the earthquake-stricken town of Iskenderun, Turkey, February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke rises from burning containers at the port in the earthquake-stricken town of Iskenderun, Turkey, February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

As a series of deadly earthquakes rippled through eastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, some thought that the apocalypse had finally arrived. Another likened the repeated quakes to being ‘shaken like a baby in a crib’. the death toll has now crossed the 5000 mark with tens of thousands of other civilians injured.

 "We thought it was the apocalypse," 23-year-old Melisa Salman told news agency AFP from the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.

Another survivor told the BBC that while he and his family had barely escaped, many relatives remained under the rubble. “I barely got myself and my family out of the building. We were just coming out of the wreckage when we saw a person reach out through a small gap. The building collapsed on our friend who tried to save them. They have no chance of escape, it collapsed on them completely,” he was quoted as saying.

In spite of the freezing temperatures many survivors worked through the night - using their bare hands to try and remove debris and unearth their family, friends and anyone else sleeping inside when the first massive 7.8-magnitude quake struck.

Gaziantep resident Erdem said that it was not akin to anything he had experienced in the past 40 years. “We were shaken at least three times very strongly, like a baby in a crib.”

Also read: Turkey-Syria Earthquake Live Updates

Since Monday morning there has been close to 200 aftershocks - some far deadlier than others. This in turn has made the search through unstable structures far more perilous.

 

Attempts to reach survivors were also impeded by temperatures below freezing and close to 200 aftershocks, which made the search through 

Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press she could hear her 70-year-old mother's voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in Antakya. But with no rescue crew or heavy equipment, they were , the capital of Hatay province, but that her and others efforts to get into the ruins had been futile without any rescue crews and heavy equipment to help.

“If only we could lift the concrete slab we'd be able to reach her,” she said. “My mother is 70-years-old, she won't be able to withstand this for long.”

 

Up to 23 million people could be affected by the massive earthquake that has killed thousands in Turkey and Syria, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday.

"Event overview maps show that potentially 23 million people are exposed, including around five million vulnerable populations," WHO senior emergencies officer Adelheid Marschang told the UN health agency's executive committee.

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