Turkey-Syria Quake Kills 1300+

A natural disaster has compounded a man-made one.

NPR (“More than 1,000 are reported dead from an earthquake that has struck Turkey and Syria“):

Search-and-rescue efforts were underway as the death toll soared from a powerful earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday. The quake and its aftershocks have triggered a new humanitarian crisis in a region already shaken by more than a decade of civil war in Syria.

More than 1,300 were reported dead and hundreds more injured in Turkey and Syria from the quake, The Associated Press reported. Hundreds of buildings collapsed in cities across the border region.

The 7.8 magnitude quake’s epicenter was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep, according to the United States Geological Survey. It was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep. Tremors from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake was felt in Syria and as far as Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq and Egypt.

The AP, citing Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency, reported that at least 284 people were killed in seven Turkish provinces. The agency said 440 people were injured. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 237 with more than 630 injured, the AP reported, citing Syrian state media. At least 120 people were killed in rebel-held areas, according to the White Helmets.

The death toll has quadrupled during the short time I have been catching up with overnight news and, indeed, went up 100 between the time I first loaded the NPR report and commencing to write the post.

There’s not much to say about the human tragedy of natural disasters killing families—if not whole villages—and destroying infrastructure, historic sites, and all the rest. But it’s particularly noteworthy in this case in light of the long-running civil war.

The earthquake in northern Syria hit parts of the country that have been already been devastated by more than a decade of civil war. In Idlib and Aleppo provinces, basic infrastructure has already been badly damaged by the war. The area is also home to millions of Syrians who fled the fighting in other parts of the country. Many live in refugee camps or basic tented settlements established amid the olive groves that run along the border with Turkey.

The Union Of Medical Care And Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an organization that provides health care in rebel-held areas of Northwest Syria, said “so far our hospitals in northwest Syria have received 91 dead and treated more than 500 severely injured victims of the earthquake. Four of our hospitals were damaged and evacuated. The remaining ones are overwhelmed.

Jomah al Qassim, a Syrian living across the border in the Turkish town of Gazientep works for Bahar Organisation, a charity that operates in Syria and in Iraq.

“According to our team in Syria, there are many casualties and damage to the buildings. Many are reported dead,” he told NPR. “This is the last thing people need in Syria. There has been crisis after crisis. People are already exhausted.”

The United Nations monitoring body, the OCHA, says of the population of 4.6 million people in northwest Syria, some 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. More than three million residents of the area are food insecure.

The region’s hospitals have been badly damaged in the conflict. Idlib is outside of government-controlled parts of Syria. Its hospitals have been repeatedly hit with airstrikes by the air force of the Syrian regime, or by its ally Russia. The airstrikes have been so frequent that doctors and aid organizations have set up medical facilities underground in an effort to shelter them from the attacks.

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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mu Yixiao says:

    BBC and Al Jazeera listing the total at 1900 now.

  2. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Yeah, I’m almost afraid of looking at the numbers. With a 7.8 followed by a 7.5 aftershock, the death toll is going to be high.

  3. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Amusing that this thread is running con-currently with one complaining about construction quality.

  4. Franklin says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl: Maybe not amusing, but yeah one wonders what kind of building codes they have there and whether they are enforced.

  5. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    A quick Google search shows they were concerned about the quality of concrete after the last major earthquake – back in 2010.

  6. CSK says:

    The death toll is over 2200 now according to Reuters.

  7. CSK says:


    Now Reuters has it at 2400.

  8. Kathy says:

    There’s a tendency to report low numbers of casualties early on, without qualifying that the data is very preliminary.

    In particular for earthquakes, it takes days or weeks to clear the rubble and get a proper accounting of the damage, both to life and property. Expect the numbers of deaths to keep going up, and to find a few survivors more in the following days.

  9. CSK says:

    2701 dead.

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    One thing I’m wondering: some of the high rise buildings structurally failed and then completely collapsed, where as others had the bottom floor or two fail, but the rest of the building held together.

    Is the difference between the two cases just luck, or is there some engineering technique now designed to halt runaway structural failures?

  11. inhumans99 says:

    Like many Americans, I tend to not be great at pointing out where a particular city, country, etc, is on a map so it is with great relief that as I suspected, Izmir, Turkey is on pretty much the opposite end of Turkey where the quake struck Turkey/Syria.

    My Aunt lives in Izmir, and my sister will be visiting her next week. Such a sad event and my thoughts and prayers really are with the folks in Syria and Turkey that were directly impacted by the quake.

  12. CSK says:

    According to NBC, the death toll is over 3100 now. Awful.

  13. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I am by no means an expert, but in college I took a geology course that focused on both the science of volcanoes and earthquakes and the aspects that contributed to death tolls/country responses. There are so many factors that go into this. It can be the building itself (construction materials), or construction quality. It can also be factors such as the underlying ground (different ground materials transfer shaking differently), and even the type of quake (this was a slip fault, not a subduction zone) can have an effect on which buildings stand and which ones fail.

    TL;DR: it takes engineers studying the wreckage to know why an individual building failed, and how.