ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Strong quake knocks down buildings in Turkey and Syria; shaking felt across Israel

7.8 magnitude tremor rattles entire region and causes extensive damage, killing at least 100; Israelis jolted by temblor, but no reports of injuries

People gather around a collapsed building in Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province, southern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (Depo Photos via AP)
People gather around a collapsed building in Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province, southern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (Depo Photos via AP)

A powerful earthquake struck southern Turkey early Monday, demolishing buildings and jostling people awake across the region, including in Israel where it was felt in Tel Aviv and across the country

The quake knocked down buildings in both Turkey and Syria, killing at least 100 people, a toll that was expected to rise.

Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of crushed buildings in multiple cities on both sides of the border.

In one quake-struck Turkish city, dozens pulled away chunks of concrete and twisted metal. People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in Israel from the 7.8 magnitude temblor.

The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep in an area about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border.

People try to reach trapped residents in a collapsed building in Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province, southern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (Depo Photos via AP)

It was recorded at a depth of 17.9 kilometers and struck at 3:17 a.m. in Israel. Strong aftershocks continued to jolt the area hours after the initial quake, some of them felt in Israel as well.

The quake caused shaking in Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Jordan, Iraq and as far away as Romania, Georgia, and Egypt, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency, AFAD, said the quake measured 7.4 and was centered in the town of Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province.

Tallies from various officials put the toll at at least 38 dead in Turkey and 62 in Syria.

On the Syrian side of the border, the quake smashed opposition-held regions that are packed with some 4 million Syrians displaced from other parts of the country by the long civil war. Many of them live in decrepit conditions with little health care.

At least 11 were killed in one town, Atmeh, and many more were buried in the rubble, a doctor in the town, Muheeb Qaddour, told The Associated Press by telephone.

“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Qaddour said, referring to the rebel-held northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”

On the Turkish side, the area has several large cities and is home to millions of Syrian refugees.

In Sanliurfa, at least 10 deaths have been confirmed, according to Gov. Salih Ayhan.

Several buildings tumbled down in the neighboring provinces of Malatya, Diyarbakir and Malatya, HaberTurk television reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.

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

Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.

In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas.

The temblor was strong enough in Beirut to sway buildings and knock products off shelves.

Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.

The tremor was among the strongest to be felt in Israel in years.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said it had not received any requests for emergency help.

“Because of high winds outside I thought it was the arrival of winter storm Barbara,” a Haifa resident told the Walla news site, referring to a large storm expected to hit Israel Monday. “It took a few long seconds until I realized that the shaking was inside the house.”

A graphic showing the location and rippling intensity of an earthquake that hit Turkey on February 6, 2023. (USGS)

Nurdagi is located near the Turkey-Syria border, some 435 kilometers (270 miles) from Israel.

Israel, which sits on the seismically active Syrian-African Rift Valley, has been girding for a major earthquake for decades, shoring up buildings and infrastructure and recently unveiling a siren system meant to issue a warning at the first sign of shaking.

Historically, the country has experienced severe earthquakes once a century, on average. The last one occurred in 1927.

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

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