A Roman-era castle in southeastern Turkey is among the thousands of structures damaged by the deadly earthquakes that struck the country and the neighboring state of Syria today. An estimated 2,300 people died in the disaster, and thousands more have been injured.
Now, as the totality of the destruction is still being measured, officials fear other significant cultural heritage sites may have been impacted too.
An initial 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit in the early hours of February 6, centered near the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Since then, more than 40 aftershocks have been felt as far as Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Lebanon, while Turkey itself experienced a related 7.5-magnitude tremor.
The catastrophic incident comes at a particularly vulnerable time for Turkey and Syria, both of which are already facing economic turmoil and refugee crises.
Some 3,000 buildings across at least 10 Turkish cities have also been destroyed. Among them was the Gaziantep Castle, a historic structure first built as a watchtower in the second and third centuries, during the Roman period, and later expanded upon in the fifth century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1, according to the Turkish agency that oversees museums and archaeological sites in the country.
The 1,700-year-old site has since served numerous functions. Just last year, part of the castle was converted into the Gaziantep Defence and Heroism Panoramic Museum, a venue honoring the city’s fight against French and English occupation during the Turkish War of Independence a century ago.
“Some of the bastions in the east, south, and southeast parts of the historical Gaziantep Castle in the central Şahinbey district were destroyed by the earthquake,” the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu reported.
“The debris was scattered on the road. The iron railings around the castle were scattered on the surrounding sidewalks. The retaining wall next to the castle also collapsed. In some bastions, large cracks were observed,” the report said.
A 17th-century Şirvani Mosque located next to the capital also collapsed, according local reports.