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Turkey, Syria earthquake marks new horror in land scarred by disaster

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In 1114, a monstrous earthquake hit areas of what’s now southern Turkey and northern Syria. Matthew of Edessa, an Armenian chronicler, described what befell the land in apocalyptic terms: “It sounded like the din made by a multitudinous army. From fear of the power of the Lord God, all creation shook and trembled like a churning sea,” he wrote. “All the plains and mountains resounded like the clanging of bronze, shaking and moving about and tossing about like trees in a hurricane. Like a person sick for a long time, all creation produced cries and groans as, with great dread, they were expecting their destruction.”

Matthew detailed how the “populous” city of Marash “was terribly destroyed and some 40,000 souls perished.” In his account, there were no survivors.

On Monday, rescuers in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, site of the historical Marash, were counting the dead and searching for lost loved ones. The provincial capital was near the epicenter of a major earthquake, 7.8 in magnitude, that impacted parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria, and was felt across the Mediterranean in Cyprus and as far as Egypt. Dozens of powerful aftershocks followed the initial quake, collapsing tens of thousands of buildings in cities across the region.

The combined death toll in both Turkey and Syria is estimated to be more than 4,300. Given the scale of the destruction and the timing of the temblor — it struck in the depths of the night, when most people were asleep — authorities expect that number to rise further. As night fell Monday, residents in towns hit by the quakes found themselves in states of desperation amid devastation, lacking food and shelter in grim wintry conditions with nowhere to go.


Aftershocks above 5-magnitude as of 7.30 am Eastern

Direction of plate movement

Source: Natural Earth, USGS

SAMUEL GRANADOS / THE WASHINGTON POST

Aftershocks above 5-magnitude as of 7.30 am Eastern

Direction of plate movement

Source: Natural Earth, USGS

SAMUEL GRANADOS / THE WASHINGTON POST

Aftershocks above 5-magnitude as of 7.30 am Eastern

Direction of plate movement

Source: Natural Earth, USG