Massive Earthquake hits Turkey and Syria, causing widespread destruction

More search teams and emergency aid from around the world poured into Turkey and Syria yesterday as rescuers working in freezing temperatures dug — sometimes with their bare hands — through the remains of buildings flattened by a powerful earthquake.

According to official figures, the death toll soared above 5300 and was still expected to rise.

However, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, Ismail Yusuf, said yesterday that no Nigerian is recorded among casualties of the earthquake that hit some cities in Turkey.

Yusuf said this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday.

According to him, the Embassy is on alert to know the state of every registered Nigerian in the country.

Erdogan said the earthquake was the worst disaster the country had experienced in 84 years.

Yusuf said rescue efforts were ongoing and there had been no report of any Nigerian casualty living in the affected region as at the time of speaking to NAN.

“Early morning on Monday at 4.17 a.m. local time, Turkiye was hit by 6.5 to 7.8 magnitude earthquakes across the cities of Malatya, Sanliurfa, Osmaniye, Diyarbakir and Gaziantep.

“We have no information of any Nigeria amongst the victims so far.

“This is work in progress. We are doing the best we can in the circumstance. Rescue efforts are progressing systematically, and in stages.”

But, with the damage spread over a wide area, the massive relief operation often struggled to reach devastated towns, and voices that had been crying out from the rubble fell silent.

“We could hear their voices, they were calling for help,” said Ali Silo, whose two relatives could not be saved in the Turkish town of Nurdagi.

In the end, it was left to Silo, a Syrian who arrived from Hama a decade ago, and other residents to recover the bodies and those of two other victims.

Monday’s magnitude 7.8 quake and a cascade of strong aftershocks cut a swath of destruction that stretched hundreds of kilometres across southeastern Turkey and neighbouring Syria, toppling thousands of buildings and heaping more misery on a region shaped by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

One temblor that followed the first registered at magnitude 7.5, powerful in its own right.

Unstable tangled piles of metal and concrete made the search efforts perilous, while freezing temperatures made them ever more urgent, as worries grew about how long those trapped could survive in the cold.

The scale of the suffering — and the accompanying rescue effort — were staggering.

More than 8000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey alone, and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, said Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay. They huddled in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres, while others spent the night outside in blankets gathering around fires.

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