Turkey's Gaziantep Castle was severely damaged by the earthquake. (photo by Salih Barlak / EyeEm via Getty Images)

In the early hours of Monday, February 6, a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey, devastating the nation’s Southeast and the adjacent northern region of Syria. At least 3,700 people have been killed with more than 10,000 injured, and the catastrophe’s effects were felt as far away as Lebanon, Israel, and Cyprus. The initial quake shook the earth for over two minutes, and 12 hours later, another earthquake of nearly equal magnitude struck again, followed by at least 120 aftershocks.

The Turkish government said the earthquake has destroyed over 3,000 buildings across the country, including historic sites and cultural landmarks. Among the hardest hit was the 2nd-century CE Gaziantep Castle, which stands on a hill in the middle of the eponymous city near the disaster’s first epicenter. The city’s fortress was used by ancient Romans and Byzantines and had been serving as a museum, but now, portions of the castle’s fortifying wall have cracked and the iron railings that surrounded the court were reportedly scattered onto the sidewalk following the building’s partial collapse.

Next to the castle, the 17th-century Şirvani Mosque was also partially destroyed, and around 140 miles north, the 19th-century Yeni mosque in Malatya was severely damaged.

Across the border in Syria, the ancient citadel of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was also badly hit and sustained damage to its iconic Mamluk tower gate and the minaret of its Ayyubid mosque. The fortress was built in the 13th century, but the city itself had served as a vital trade hub for over a thousand years, since the 2nd century BCE. In the years-long battle for Aleppo during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, at least 60% of the Old City was destroyed.

The earthquake has killed at least 237 people and injured 639 in Aleppo, but Syria’s rebel-held Northwest also suffered severe damage. The area houses 1.8 million displaced people in temporary camps, and 4.1 million people there require humanitarian assistance. Now, freezing temperatures threaten to worsen the earthquake’s devastation.

Turkey has experienced multiple deadly earthquakes over the past century, but the Turkish government called today’s disaster the worst since 1939, when a massive quake killed over 30,000 people.

Since the early morning, countries across the world have pledged humanitarian aid to both Turkey and Syria.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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