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At least 7,700 people perished in Syria and Turkey after “once in a century” 7.8 earthquake early Monday morning

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Early Monday morning, before dusk, while people were still sleeping in their beds, a massive earthquake struck Turkey and northern Syria. Complete cities have been levelled. People are buried alive underneath the rubble. The death toll has risen to 7,700 people. Authorities and rescue workers race against time to save as many as they can.

“It’s like we woke up to hell,” said Osman Can Taninmis, whose family members were still beneath the rubble in Hatay, Turkey’s hardest-hit province. “We can’t respond to absolutely anything. Help isn’t coming, can’t come. We can’t reach anyone at all. Everywhere is destroyed,” they told AP.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declared a three month state of emergency for those regions hardest hit.

Rescuers worked through two nights in extreme cold searching for people. “The later people are found under the rubble, the worse the chances for survival get,” said Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, a regional emergency director for the World Health Organization. The agency warned that the death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday, in a region already burdened by a war and refugee crisis, could increase by the thousands.

Rescuers search for those still alive in Izmir, Turkey photo courtesy of National Geographic and AP

“The images we’re seeing out of Syria and Türkiye are heart-wrenching,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “That the initial earthquake happened so early in the morning, when many children were fast asleep, made it even more dangerous, and the aftershocks bring continuing risks. Our hearts and thoughts are with the children and families affected, especially those who have lost loved ones or who have been injured.  Our immediate priority is to ensure children and families affected receive the support they so desperately need.” 

If you’re interested in aiding people in Turkey and Syria, you can contact the following agencies:

Some informational content provide by NPR, The New York Times, The World Health Organization, UNICEF, The United Nations, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Project Hope, Getty, The AP, PBS, and Google Images.

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