More Than 5,000 People Reported Dead After Turkey And Syria Rocked By Massive Earthquake

(Photo by RAMI AL SAYED/AFP via Getty Images)

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A strong earthquake, clocking in at 7.8 magnitude, hit southern Turkey early Monday morning, reportedly downing a number of buildings in the region while people slept. A second one, almost as powerful, hit 12 hours later.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to affected areas within the country. Erdogan also noted Monday that the initial quake in Turkey killed 912 and wounded 5,385 people, calling it the “biggest disaster” to strike the country since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, CNBC reported. By Tuesday, after 300 aftershocks and desperate search and rescue operations, the number of dead in Turkey and Syria surpassed 5,000, with tens of thousands injured, CBS News reported.

Erdogan also announced that 2,818 buildings in total had collapsed due to the initial quake in Turkey, according to CNBC.

The initial quake struck approximately 20 miles from the city of Gaziantep at a depth of 11 miles and could reportedly be felt in Lebanon and Syria, NBC News reported. Aftershocks were felt in the minutes after the initial quake, the strongest of which clocked in at a 6.7 magnitude. (RELATED: Huge Earthquake Felt Across Multiple Nations)

Journalist Eyad Kourdi, a resident of Gaziantep, told CNN on Monday there were at least eight “very strong” aftershocks after the initial 7.8 magnitude quake struck, adding that many of his neighbors fled their homes in the aftermath.

Gaziantep Gov. Davut Gul pleaded with residents not to panic and to keep roadways clear.

“Please let’s wait outside without panic. Let’s not use our cars. Let’s not crowd the main roads. Let’s not keep the phones busy,” he said.

Gov. Erdinc Yilmaz of the Osmaniye province in southern Turkey told state media on Monday, according to The New York Times, that 34 buildings had collapsed with five confirmed dead. Gov. Salih Ayhan of the Sanliurfa province told CNN on Monday that 12 people have been confirmed dead in his province.

In Syria, state media reported that the power of the quake caused buildings to collapse in the cities of Aleppo and Hama, according to NBC News.

“The situation is disastrous,” said a spokesperson for first responders in Syria on Monday, according to The Washington Post. The spokesman continued, explaining that they have evacuated the deceased and wounded already, but an unknown number of people were still trapped in the rubble. Syrian state media initially reported that 371 deaths occurred with the first quake and 1,089 people were injured, according to CNBC. By Tuesday, the number of dead in Syria alone numbered 1,444 people with 3,500 injured, Reuters reported.

Emergency rooms of Syrian American Medical Association (SAMS) hospitals in northwest Syria were reportedly full.

Cold weather is only exacerbating the situation.

“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,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said according to CNN.

“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.

Dr. Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey likened the power of this quake to that of the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco. Hough noted that while there have been more powerful quakes in the past 20 years, the shallowness of this particular quake is not common and made it particularly disastrous and far-reaching.

The second quake clocking in at 7.6 magnitude hit an already besieged southern Turkey within 12 hours of the first quake, hampering search and rescue efforts, CNBC reported.

This post has been updated to reflect the latest reported data as of Tuesday morning.