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Powerful Quake Rocks Turkey and Syria  02/06 06:02

   A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria 
early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 1,300 
people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll 
was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities 
and towns across the area.

   AZMARIN, Syria (AP) -- A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide 
swaths of Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and 
killing more than 1,300 people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped 
under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched 
mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

   On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn 
quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy night. Buildings were reduced 
to piles of pancaked floors, while major aftershocks, some nearly as strong as 
the first, continued.

   Rescue workers and residents in multiple cities searched for survivors, 
working through tangles of metal and concrete. A hospital in Turkey collapsed, 
and patients, including newborns, were evacuated from facilities in Syria.

   In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his 
home were toppled. "I don't have the strength anymore," one survivor could be 
heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, 
said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus.

   "Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the 
earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will 
rise," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "Hopefully, we will leave 
these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a 
nation."

   The quake, which was centered north of the Turkish provincial capital of 
Gaziantep, was felt as far away as Cairo. It sent residents of Damascus rushing 
into the street, and jolted awake people in their beds in Beirut.

   It struck a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more 
than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the swath affected is 
divided between government-held territory and the country's last 
opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government 
forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.

   The opposition-held regions in Syria are packed with some 4 million people 
displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of them live in 
buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments. Hundreds of families 
remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the 
White Helmets, said in a statement.

   Strained health facilities and hospitals were quickly filled with wounded, 
rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, 
according to the SAMS medical organization.

   The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by 
earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in a similarly powerful earthquakes that 
hit northwest Turkey in 1999. The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday's 
quake at 7.8. At least 20 aftershocks followed, authorities said, including one 
that measured 7.5.

   Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from 
Syria's cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey's Diyarbakir, more than 330 
kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. A hospital collapsed in the 
Mediterranean coastal city of Iskenderun, but casualties were not immediately 
known, his vice president, Fuat Oktay, said.

   Televisions stations in Turkey aired screens split into four or five, 
showing live coverage from rescue efforts in the worst-hit provinces. In the 
city of Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble, 
while others tried to reach a relative.

   Offers of help -- from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money 
-- poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO.

   The damage evident from photos of the affected areas is typically associated 
with a significant loss of life -- while bitterly cold temperatures and the 
difficulty of working in areas beset by civil war will only complicate rescue 
efforts, said Dr. Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham 
Trent University.

   In Turkey, people trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic 
jams, hampering efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. 
Authorities urged residents not to take to the roads. Mosques around the region 
were opened to provide shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes 
amid temperatures that hovered around freezing.

   The quake heavily damaged Gaziantep's most famed landmark, its historic 
castle perched atop a hill in the center of the city. Parts of the fortresses' 
walls and watch towers were leveled and other parts heavily damaged, images 
from the city showed.

   In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across 
a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household 
belongings and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while 
excavators dug through the rubble below.

   In northwest Syria, the quake added new woes to the opposition-held enclave 
centered on the province of Idlib, which has been under siege for years, with 
frequent Russian and government airstrikes. The territory depends on a flow of 
aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

   The opposition's Syrian Civil Defense described the situation there as 
"disastrous."

   Osama Abdelhamid, who was being treated for injuries at a hospital in Idlib, 
said most of his neighbors died. He said their shared four-story building 
collapsed just as he, his wife and three children ran toward the exit. A wooden 
door fell on them and acted as a shield.

   "I was reborn, thank God," he said.

   In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the 
Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were 
brought to a hospital.

   The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syira said the 
earthquake has caused some damage to the Crusader-built Marqab, or Watchtower 
Castle, on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Part of a tower and parts of 
some walls collapsed.

   The USGS said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from 
Gaziantep. It was 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep.

   More than 900 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with more than 
5,400 injured, according to Turkey's president. The death toll in 
government-held areas of Syria climbed over 330 people, with some 1,000 
injured, according to the Health Ministry. In rebel-held areas, more than 200 
people were killed, according to the White Helmets, though the SAMS medical 
organization put the toll at more than 135; both said hundreds were hurt.

   Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey's Hatay province, said several of 
his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

   "There are so many other people who are also trapped," he told HaberTurk 
television by telephone. "There are so many buildings that have been damaged. 
People are on the streets. It's raining, it's winter."

 
 
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