Turkey hit by 7.8 magnitude earthquake killing more than 2500 people

Former Premier League and World Cup star Christian Atsu is trapped under rubble after a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, killing at least 2700 people.

The huge quake struck on Monday morning local time, toppling buildings and crushing families to death in their sleep.

A second powerful 7.5-magnitude tremor rocked Turkey again later in the day, sparking panic as rescuers desperately sifted through the rubble with their hands to free loved ones, who can be heard screaming from below.

A total of 1651 people are confirmed dead in Turkey, with 1050 more killed in Syria.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers search through what remains of apartment buildings that have been completely flattened.

More that 11,000 people have been injuread across teh two nations.

Former Newcastle United winger Atsu, 31, is among those unnacounted for in Turkey, where he plays for Hatayspor.

Several members of his team had to be rescued after the earthquake, but he is still missing, as is his team’s sporting director Taner Savut

The earthquake hit hard in Kahramanmaras, where Hatayspor are based.

Atsu represented Ghana at the 2014 World Cup, playing for them 65 times, and was the best player at the 2015 African Cup of Nations.

He scored the last-minute winner in Hatayspor’s 1-0 victory on Sunday.

Television images showed shocked people in Turkey standing in the snow in their pyjamas, watching rescuers dig through the debris of damaged homes.

More than ,700 buildings were damaged across 10 Turkish cities, the Turkish vice president said.

The quake, described as one of the strongest to hit Turkey in more than 100 years, struck at 4.17am local time at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said, with a 6.7-magnitude aftershock striking 15 minutes later.

Turkey’s AFAD emergencies service centre put the first quake’s magnitude at 7.4, adding that it was followed by dozens of aftershocks.

The earthquake was one of the most powerful to hit the region in at least a century, affecting southeastern parts of Turkey that are home to millions of refugees from Syria and other war-torn regions.

“There are many damaged buildings,” AFAD chief Orhan Tatar said in nationally televised remarks. “People should avoid buildings.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will be under pressure to oversee an effective response to the disaster heading to a tightly contested May 14 election, conveyed his sympathies and urged national unity.

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” the Turkish leader tweeted.

‘Damage is serious’

The earthquake levelled dozens of buildings across major cities of southern Turkey as well as neighbouring Syria, a country gripped by more than a decade of violence that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of people.

Images on Turkish television and social media showed rescuers digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep.

A fire lit up the night sky in one image from Kahramanmaras, although its origin remained unclear.

NTV television said buildings also crumbled in the cities of Adiyaman, Malatya and Diyarbakir.

Kahramanmaras Governor Omer Faruk Coskun said it was too early to estimate the death toll because so many buildings were destroyed.

“It is not possible to give the number of dead and injured at the moment because so many buildings have been destroyed,” Coskun said. “The damage is serious.” A famous mosque dating back to the 13th century partially collapsed in the province of Maltaya.

In other cities, rescuers sounded anguished as they struggled to reach survivors trapped under the debris.

“We hear voices here — and over there, too,” one rescuer was overheard as saying on NTV television in front of a flattened building in the city of Diyarbakir.

“There may be 200 people under the rubble.”

‘Biggest earthquake’

In rebel-held parts of the northwest of Syria, at least 380 people were killed and more than ,000 were injured, The White Helmets rescue group said.

The toll may increase as “hundreds of families are still trapped”, the rescue group, which operates in rebel-controlled areas of the war-torn country, said on Twitter.

“Rescue efforts in northwest Syria are facing immense difficulties” because heavy equipment is required, they said.

The group said more than 133 buildings had completely collapsed, while 272 had been partially levelled, and thousands of others had been damaged.

Rescuers rushed to search for survivors beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings, under the pouring winter rain.

In Aleppo alone, 156 people died and 507 were injured when 46 buildings collapsed in the province, the official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official.

Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo – Syria’s pre-war commercial hub – often collapsed due to poor infrastructure.

Many of the buildings there are dilapidated after more than a decade of war and little oversight to ensure the safety of new construction projects, some of which have been built illegally.

In the city of Hama, an eight-storey building collapsed after the quake at dawn, with rescuers and civil defence forces still searching for survivors under the rubble, SANA said.

Alaa Shaker of the Syrian Red Crescent told AFP that around 125 people lived in the building.

The earthquake was felt from Latakia on the coast in the west all the way to the capital Damascus hundreds of kilometres (miles) further south, SANA said.

Raed Ahmed, who heads Syria’s National Earthquake Centre, told pro-government radio that this was “historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre”.

Naci Gorur, an earthquake expert with Turkey’s Academy of Sciences, urged local officials to immediately check the region’s dams for cracks to avert potentially catastrophic floodings.

Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkey in decades.

That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul. Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people. And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit Turkey’s Aegean coast, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.

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