Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: 8 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 8 February. You can find our latest coverage here.

Missing Syriac Tourism Student Fikri Töre Found Dead Under Rubble of Hotel in Adıyaman

22:58 CET — The body of Fikri Töre, missing after the earthquake that devastated the region on Monday, has been recovered from the rubble of the Isias Hotel in Adıyaman.

Töre was from the village of Miden in the historic Tur Abdin region in southeastern Turkey. He was a tourism student interning at the Isias Hotel at the time of the earthquake.

It was thought Töre managed to leave the hotel during the earthquake and was reported missing.

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.

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.

Mor Petrus and Mor Paulus Church in Adıyaman, Turkey, irreparably damaged, according to Syriac Orthodox Bishop

20:05 CET — The Mor Petrus and Mor Faulus Church (Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church) in Adıyaman has suffered irreparable damage, Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Adıyaman Melke Ürek said in comments to Suroyo TV.

”Before everything, I ask our Lord to look after all the people and the cities that were affected by the earth. Our heart is broken.

In Adiyaman, many buildings have collapsed, and many people are under the rubble. We do not know how many. Rescue workers are trying to do their best to clear the rubble and find survivors. Help has come from all places to help in Adiyaman.

We are standing here in front of the Saint Peter and Paul Church. Our Church has been damaged and we probably cannot pray in it anymore. Thank God our people of the church are unharmed.

Also, our personnel and Syriac families that live nearby are unharmed, but they now cannot remain in their houses because of collapse risk. They now stay here on the grounds of the bishopric.

We live through this together. Help has come from Miden and Bsorino in Tur Abdin. Maybe people will also come from Arkah. These first days we were not in shortage of supplies but they have brought us provisions and necessities. We thank them for that.

We pray that nothing will happen to our church and people here in Adiyaman.”

Mor Fetrus and Mor Faulus Church was reopened after a long legal battle and much needed repair in 2011 after sitting unused since the days of the Ottoman Empire some 90 years ago.

Hundreds of Syriacs from across Turkey and around the world attended its reopening.

The church, believed to date back to the 4th or 5th century, has undergone several renovations as indicated by Syriac inscriptions on both its doorways.

Damage to the Mor Fetrus and Mor Faulus Church in Adıyaman, Turkey, caused by the earthquake on 6 February 2023. (Image: Suroyo TV)

The church is located near the foundation of the Virgin Mary church, which was established as the first metropolitanate in 1701 to serve the local Syriac community in Adıyaman.

The first Metropolitan appointed in the area, Mor Abhay Eyup, is buried in the churchyard and his tomb still remains.

The last metropolitan to serve in this station was Mor Kurillos Mansur, Bishop Hallo of Mardin, whose tomb can still be found in the altar section of the church. The Syriac community established many churches and monasteries in various towns, including Gerger and Samsat, which served as places of worship and training centers. The traditional design of the church was created by Syriac stone masons from Urfa in the 19th century.

Interior of the Mor Fetrus and Mor Faulus Church in Adıyaman, Turkey, before the earthquake on 6 February 2023.

Fires at İskenderun Port Continue to Rage

18:57 CET — Images taken on Wednesday show that the fires at the İskenderun Port facility in Turkey continue to rage two days after the earthquake that devastated the region on Monday.

Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry stated that efforts to extinguish a fire at the port are ongoing.

İskenderun Port remains shut down due to significant damage caused by the earthquake and a subsequent fire that erupted among containers at the terminal.

Fires rage at İskenderun Port as firefighters try to extinguish the flames. (Image: Murat Sengul / Getty Images)
A firefighter works at İskenderun Port in Turkey on Wednesday. (Image: Guglielmo Mangiapane / Reuters)
Fire burns among flipped-over containers on Monday morning, hours after the earthquake struck. (Image: Murat Sengul / Getty Images)

Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo Butros Kassis opens Church Buildings to Earthquake Survivors

17:53 CET — The devastating earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria led to massive destruction. In Syria, it mostly affected the bigger cities of Holeb (Aleppo), Edleb (Idlib), Hmoth (Hama), and Latakia.

In exclusive comments to our news desk, the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Holeb and its Environs, Mor Butros Kassis, stated that Monday’s massive earthquake led to the partial or complete destruction of many buildings in Holeb (Aleppo). It created widespread panic among residents. “During the earthquake, I was in the Archdiocese’s headquarters. I inspected the house for the elderly and the dormitory of the university students and led them down to the safer cellars,” the Archbishop said.

The Archbishop, who was installed in October 2022, then visited Syriac families in the old and new Syriac neighborhoods (“Hayy al-Seryan”) and inspected the churches and monasteries there. “The churches and monasteries in Holeb are open as shelter for those affected and also for those afraid of possible aftershocks. We will try to provide all with heating, food, and water.”

Archbishop Mor Butros Kassis stated that Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II sent aid through the Saint Aphrem the Syriac Patriarchal Development Office to the affected people in Holeb. The Archbishop stressed that the Patriarch is expected to visit the Syriac people in the region soon and closely inspect their situation. The Patriarch left Sweden Monday after a visit of several days to discuss the appointment of a new bishop.

Archbishop Mor Butros Kassis thanked everyone who has provided aid and the clergy from the various churches and charities. He prayed to God to end the suffering of the Syriac people and all Syrian and Turkish peoples.

Turkish Government Blocks Twitter as Criticism of Slow Emergency Response Begins to Mount

16:45 CET — Twitter access has reportedly been blocked in Turkey according to reports from an internet monitoring company, academics, and journalists monitoring the country’s response to a recent earthquake.

NetBlocks, a network monitoring firm, confirmed that the restriction was due to traffic filtering applied by internet service providers, preventing access to Twitter. “Real-time network data show Twitter has been restricted in Turkey; the filtering is applied on major internet providers and comes as the public come to rely on the service in the aftermath of a series of deadly earthquakes,” reported NetBlocks via Twitter.

The news of the restriction came as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began a tour of the affected region.

Nearly 300,000 People Displaced from Syrian Regime-Controlled Areas, According to Officials

16:11 CET — According to Syrian government officials, nearly 300,000 people in government-controlled areas have been forced to leave their homes due to the earthquake that struck the region on Monday.

“Our country is not qualified to deal with such disasters, especially with our exit from the war that caused the loss of 50,000 engineering machinery and equipment we desperately needed to use in this disaster, in addition to the economic sanctions applied to it,” Makhlouf said Wednesday during a press conference in Daramsuq (Damascus).

Makhlouf said the government had opened 180 shelters for displaced people.

People who evacuated their homes sleep in their vehicle in Holeb (Aleppo), Syria, on 8 February 2023. (Image: Firas Makdesi / Reuters)

Earthquake Death Toll Reaches 11,100, Continues to Climb

15:11 CET — According to official reports, the death toll from the destructive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has reached 11,100.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in a Wednesday briefing that in Turkey alone, the death toll has climbed passed 8,500, with nearly 50,000 others injured.

Meanwhile, in Syria, over 2,500 people have been reported dead in both government-controlled and Turkish-backed opposition areas.

However, aid agencies and emergency responders believe the death toll will continue to rise as there are still people trapped under the debris and rescue efforts are being hindered by the freezing weather conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the death toll could reach as high as 20,000.

Smoke billows from İskenderun Port as emergency workers continue rescue efforts in İskenderun, Turkey, on 7 February 2023. (Image: Burak Kara / Getty Images)