A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, resulting in over 6,200 fatalities and thousands of injuries. The quake caused thousands of buildings to collapse and left many residents trapped under the rubble. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers search for survivors in an area that is already grappling with the 12-year civil war in Syria and a refugee crisis.
The early morning quake woke up residents and forced them to evacuate in the rain and snow to avoid falling debris. Throughout the day, strong aftershocks continued to shake the region, including one that was nearly as strong as the initial earthquake. By nightfall, workers were still extracting bodies and searching for survivors, causing families to wait in desperation for news of their loved ones.
Tens of thousands of people were left homeless in Turkey and Syria, forcing them to spend the night in the cold. People took refuge in shopping malls, community centers, and mosques that were opened to provide shelter. The quake was centered in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, Turkey and was felt as far as Cairo, sending residents in Damascus and Beirut rushing into the streets.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that officials are unsure of the exact number of casualties and the extent of the damage.