Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: 7 February

GAZIANTEP, Turkey / HOLEB, Syria — A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria in the early hours on Monday leaving wide-spread devastation and killing thousands. Many people are still believed to be trapped under the rubble and rescue efforts are ongoing. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Kahramanmaras near Gaziantep, Turkey, and was felt as far as Cyprus, Beirut, and Erbil, Iraq.

Below is SyriacPress earthquake coverage for 7 February. You can find our latest coverage here.

Syriac Communities in Northern Syria Devastated by Earthquake

18:15 CET — Syriac communities across northern Syria have suffered devastating losses in the massive earthquake that struck the region on Monday.

Among them was the Syriac Melkite Tawil family of four from Latakia. Businessman Riyad Jan Tawil, his wife Marina Hanino, and their children Jan and Sarita were all killed in a building collapse.

Businessman Riyad Jan Tawil, his wife Marina Hanino, and their children Jan and Sarita.

The funeral service of Marina Hanino was held on Tuesday in the Church of Saint Michael and Gabriel in Latakia. Funeral services for Riyad Tawil and his two children, Jan and Sarita, will be held on Wednesday in Holeb (Aleppo).

The earthquake was followed by aftershocks that struck the regions of Holeb, Edleb (Idlib), and Latakia.

The earthquake left a large number of deaths, injured and missing persons trapped under the rubble. Below are some of the Syriac families lost in the catastrophe:

Director Hamza Makhlouf, his wife Ranim Maqsood, and their daughter Al-Malak Saba.
Dr. Hala Saeed, a neuropathologist and professor at the Faculty of Human Medicine in Hawash Private University, and her husband Dr. Faiz Attaf.
Sarah Abdelkarim and her daughter Angela from Jabla. Her sister, Raghada Abdulkarim (not pictured), a student at Valley University, also died in the earthquake.

Earthquake Caused Damage to Cultural Heritage Sites Across Region

17:26 CET — The powerful earthquake that hit southern Turkey caused significant damage to cultural heritage sites across the region.

Gaziantep Castle, a historic building that dates back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries and currently serves as a museum, sustained heavy damage from the quake and subsequent aftershocks.

The Şirvani Mosque, a 17th century historical site located near the castle, also suffered partial collapse of its dome and eastern wall, it was reported. Historical records show that the castle was initially constructed as a watchtower during the Roman era between the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. and underwent expansion over time. Its current form dates back to the time of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, between 527-565 A.D, as per the official Turkish Museums website.

Damage caused to Gaziantep Castle during the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria on 6 February 2023.

According to the Syria’s Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), the earthquake caused damage to several archaeological sites in the country.

DGAM reported that the 13th-century Holeb (Aleppo) Citadel suffered moderate damage, with parts of the Ottoman mill, northeast defensive fences, dome of the Ayubi Mosque, and entrances to the castle falling or being damaged.

In addition, parts of the stone, such as the entrance to the royal defense tower and the front of the Ottoman refuge, were also affected.

The National Museum in the once-storied ancient city of Holeb, which was seriously damaged in the ongoing civil war but reopened in 2018 after reconstruction, was also damaged in the earthquake.

DGAM also reported damage to historical buildings and mosques in the Hemto (Hama), including cracks in the structure and collapsed walls at the Imam Ismail Mosque and Shmemis Castle. The Al-Marqab Castle, a Crusader fortress near Baniyas in northwest Syria, suffered damage, including the collapse of a block from one of its circular towers, and the earthquake led to the fall of the rock cliff near the Qadous Castle and collapse of some residential buildings on its campus.

Holeb’s (Aleppo) ancient citadel is seen damaged following the earthquake on 6 February 2023. (Image: AFP)

Aleppo’s ancient citadel is seen damaged following the earthquake on Monday. (AFP via Getty Images)

United Nation’s cultural organization UNESCO announced it is ready to aid in the rehabilitation of cultural heritage sites damaged in the earthquake.

Upon inspecting the damages, the organization expressed concern over the ancient city of Holeb, which is listed on the World Heritage in Danger, and reported significant damage to the citadel.

“The western tower of the old city wall has collapsed and several buildings in the souks have been weakened,” UNESCO said.

In Omid (Diyarbakır), Turkey, where several buildings have collapsed, UNESCO expressed its concern over Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape, which is “an important centre of the Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman periods.”

UNESCO is sending experts to assess the damage and stabilize the affected sites as soon as possible.

Syriac Student from Miden Village in Tur Abdin Missing in Adıyaman

15:30 CET — A young Syriac man from the village of Miden in the historic Tur Abdin region in southeastern Turkey has gone missing following the earthquake that has devastated the region.

Fikri Töre, a tourism student, was in the Isias Hotel where he was intern alongside other students at the time of the earthquake.

Fikri Töre, a Syriac tourism student from Tur Abdin, missing following the earthquake that struck the region on 6 February 2023.

He is confirmed to have left the hotel during the earthquake but has since gone missing. Inquiries have been made with the police and hospitals to no avail.

Following the earthquake, a rescue team from Cyprus rescued 12 people from the hotel. The bodies of 7 others who died in the earthquake were recovered.

Already Making Rescue Efforts Difficult, Winter Weather to Worsen on Wednesday and Thursday

14:53 CET — Rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria to help those trapped under collapsed buildings are being hindered by harsh weather conditions. The weather is also putting thousands of people whose homes were damaged by the quake at risk.

“Thousands of homes have been destroyed, displacing families and exposing them to the elements at a time of year when temperatures regularly drop below freezing and snow and freezing rain are common,” said UNICEF spokesperson James Elder.

“Displaced families in northwest Syria, and Syrian refugee families living in Turkey in informal settlements are among the most vulnerable as overnight temperatures continue to dip below zero degrees Celsius [32 degrees Fahrenheit],” he added.

Search and rescue efforts continue through cold weather conditions in Malatya, Turkey, on 7 February. (Image: Sercan Kucuksahin / Getty Images)

In earthquake-stricken cities in southeast Turkey, families have been gathering around makeshift fires for warmth. Conditions in northwest Syria have been described as “terrifying” with many families losing their lives and survivors sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures.

A low-pressure system is affecting the region, bringing in colder air from central Turkey. Temperatures are expected to drop below zero on Wednesday and further on Thursday.

Wind warnings are already in place for the provinces of Adana and Kahramanmaras with gusts reaching 50 to 75 kph.

Helicopters were unable to take off due to poor weather on Monday, delaying the arrival of aid teams to affect areas.

Earthquake Death Toll Passes 5,000, WHO Warns 23 Million Could Be Affected

13:53 CET — The death toll from Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria has risen to at least 5,000. Turkey’s Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM) reported that the death toll in Turkey is over 3,400 with fatalities occurring in 10 provinces. Additionally, 21,103 people have been reported injured and over 26,000 search and rescue personnel have been involved in operations.

In Syria, the death toll has passed 1,600 and at least 3,600 people have been reported injured. Recovery operations are likely to be more difficult than those in Turkey. Most of the areas affected by the earthquake are opposition and Turkish-controlled areas and lack sufficient resources to tackle the widespread destruction. Cold and wet weather in both countries have complicated rescue efforts.

Residents, aided by heavy equipment, searching for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in the village of Besnia, Syria, on 6 February 2023. (Image: Omar Haj Kadour / AFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the earthquake could affect almost 23 million people.

“Event overview maps show that potentially 23 million people are exposed, including around 5 million vulnerable populations, including more than 350,000 older people, 1.4 million children,” Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergencies officer at WHO, stated during a meeting in Geneva.

Director General of the WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed his concern about the situation and called it a “race against time”.