On both sides of the border that separates Turkey and Syria over several hundred kilometers, everywhere there are the same scenes of dread, fear, dull concern and anger. Twenty hours after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred Monday, February 6, at 4:17 a.m., in the district of Pazarcik, located about sixty kilometers from the Syrian border, near the large city of Gaziantep, tens of thousands people continued to wander along the roadsides, or what remains of them, in search of shelter or help.
The provisional death toll rose to 3,381 dead in Turkey on Tuesday, according to the government body for disaster management (Afad). It is the deadliest earthquake since 1999, when a violent tremor devastated the eastern part of the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000 people.
The quake was felt across the region, causing immense destruction in ten southeastern provinces – Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Osmaniye, Malatya, Adana and Hatay. Aftershocks followed, about forty in total, including a particularly strong one (7.5), which occurred in the early afternoon, at 1:24 p.m. local time. Thousands of additional buildings, which had seemed to resist the first shock wave, collapsed.
Read also: Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: the dramatic consequences in photos
Late in the evening, help had still not arrived in Kahramanmaras, considered the epicenter of the first earthquake, where hundreds of houses were destroyed. Nearly eighteen hours after the quake, neither search and rescue teams nor food supplies had reached the area.
Elsewhere, the same scenes repeat themselves. The scale and extent of the damage is striking. Miles of roads without light, thousands of flattened or simply overturned houses. The asphalt torn here and there, like a vulgar sheet of paper. Everywhere, mudslides, stones or earth on the roadway and homes. The electric poles are lying on the aisles like simple pencils placed on the corner of a table. Some are folded in half or pulverized.
It was in Hatay that the earthquake hit the hardest, with 502 dead, according to the count – provisional – of Monday evening. In Diyarbakir, 309 deaths were counted, and 205 in Osmaniye.
At the edge of the road, at the entrance to the town, a house like so many others seems sunk into the ground like a boat in the ocean. They are a dozen to turn around, call, shout, in vain. Beneath the rubble is Remzi Saldiray, 63. A father, he managed to get everyone out of the house. His mother, the children, the cousins, except him. He hasn’t answered for a few hours. His brother stares at the debris, hands up in the sky. He calls out to God for help, and cries. “No one has come since this morning, no one…”, he repeats.
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