BEIRUT: Parts of Lebanon on Monday were rocked by the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing and injuring thousands of people.
Residents took to the streets and sheltered in cars as several aftershocks from the quake were felt during the day.
The National Council for Scientific Research’s National Center for Geophysics recorded a 4.8 magnitude tremor at 3:18 a.m. local time, which lasted for 40 seconds, followed by others.
Many buildings in Beirut, coastal cities, and all the way to the Bekaa Valley shook, but the Lebanese Red Cross reported no casualties apart from a few citizens who had suffered heart attacks.
The Lebanese Ministry of Education announced that all educational institutions should remain closed until Wednesday for the safety of students and staff, while traffic police urged citizens not to park vehicles near trees, billboards, or objects at risk of falling, and to keep away from beaches.
A team from the Civil Defense, Red Cross, and Beirut Fire Brigade was traveling to Turkiye to assist rescue workers.
Marilyne Brax, director of the National Center for Geophysics, said there was little chance of a tsunami.
“We were unable to scientifically monitor the movement of waves in Lebanon due to the loss of monitoring instruments in the sea, but in Cyprus and Turkiye, wave height movements recorded 20 centimeters.”
One resident of Ashrafieh, in Beirut, said: “I woke up to the bed shaking and objects falling on the floor. It was completely dark, so I used the flashlight on my phone to find my way out of my apartment.
“I could hear my neighbors crying as they came down the stairs. Everyone looked terrified. It was a horrific night. An earthquake is the last thing the Lebanese need right now.”
In Tripoli, northern Lebanon, young men fired shots into the air to urge people to leave buildings and private generators were turned on to provide light for frightened people.
Fatima, a resident of the southern suburbs of Beirut, said: “I already suffer from a phobia of earthquakes, and when I realized what was happening and heard walls cracking, I hurried out of the house into the street in the dark.
“My neighbors and their children and sick elderly were already in the streets praying.”
A nurse at Makassed Islamic Hospital in Beirut said the building had been designed to resist earthquakes.
“As soon as everyone calmed down, there was a strong aftershock, but we were able to continue our work about half-an-hour later.”
In the coastal city of Tyre, the earthquake caused cracks in a road, and a house in the Rashaya Al-Wadi area of southeastern Lebanon was reported to have collapsed.
But while encouraging citizens to evacuate any older buildings showing signs of collapse, Lebanon’s caretaker interior minister, Bassam Mawlawi, said there had been limited damage in the country.
Many buildings in Lebanon do not meet required safety specifications as they were constructed during the civil war.
Seismic activity is common in Lebanon. One of the worst quakes to hit the country was on March 16, 1956, in the Chouf, Jezzine, Sidon, and Bekaa areas. It claimed the lives of around 140 people and injured more than 600, in addition to destroying buildings, roads, and infrastructure.