At least 1,498 people were killed and 8,533 others injured in 10 provinces after two strong earthquakes struck southern Turkiye on Monday, an official from the country’s disaster agency said.
A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake centred in the Pazarcik district struck Kahramanmaras early on Monday morning, severely affecting several provinces including Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay and Kilis.
A new 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkiye at 13:24 (1024 GMT), centred in the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaras.
Orhan Tatar, general manager of AFAD’s risk reduction department, said there had been a total of 120 aftershocks and 2,834 buildings had collapsed.
The total number of search and rescue personnel deployed in the region is 9,698, according to AFAD.
There is currently no threat of a tsunami affecting Turkie’s eastern Mediterranean coast, AFAD said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Türkiye had been shaken by the “biggest disaster” since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake in the last century.
“Our state has been working with all its institutions since the earthquake. All resources have been mobilised,” he said at the AFAD office in the capital Ankara, where he is coordinating rescue and relief efforts.
The president spoke by telephone to the mayors of Adana, Osmaniye, Hatay and Kilis and was briefed on the search and rescue efforts, the Turkish presidency said.
Vice President Fuat Oktay told a press conference that Erdogan had been following and managing the event since the moment the earthquake struck.
Oktay added that Hatay airport was currently closed to flights and said that Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep airports had also been closed to civil flights.
“102 mobile phone base stations have been sent to the earthquake areas so far,” Oktay said.
He also called on all media organisations, institutions and organisations to rely on official statements so as not to cause information pollution.
The vice president also said that all schools in the 10 provinces would be closed for a week.
Meanwhile, National Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said schools in the provinces of Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Adana, Osmaniye and Kilis would be closed for a week.
“As of today, we are taking a two-week break from education in the provinces of Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Adiyaman and Malatya,” Ozer added.
Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said all national sports organisations scheduled to take place in Turkey had been suspended until further notice.
The earthquake was also felt in several countries in the region, including Lebanon and Syria.
Rescue teams on alert
Erdogan sent his best wishes to the citizens affected by the earthquake. He added that AFAD and other units were “on alert”.
The president noted that rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the areas affected by the earthquake.
“Our Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health, AFAD, provincial governorships, and all other institutions started their work rapidly.
“We are also coordinating our work after the earthquake. We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage, and we continue our work,” he said.
Türkiye issued a level-4 alarm, which includes a call for international aid, the AFAD said in the statement.
Following a discussion with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, AFAD also said international assistance was called for the search and rescue through the ERCC (Emergency Response Coordination Centre).
“Assistance offers were received from many countries, especially the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, and the UK,” it added.
Meanwhile, the health personnel assigned from the National Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry departed from Ankara to the region with two military ambulance planes.
Besides rescue teams, blankets, and food, psychological support teams were also sent to the region.
Türkiye sets up ‘air aid corridor’
After the earthquake, an “air aid corridor” was created by the Turkish Armed Forces to deliver search and rescue teams to the region.
“We mobilized our planes to send medical teams, search and rescue teams and their vehicles to the earthquake zone. We have maximized the readiness of our aircraft to provide the necessary transportation service,” National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
A large number of transport aircraft, including an A-400M of the Turkish Armed Forces, began to dispatch search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes also take part in the “air aid corridor,” Akar added.
“As Turkish Armed Forces, we continue our efforts to determine damage and casualties. Unfortunately, we have three martyrs. There are also injured ones,” he said.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said a sufficient number of teams from 81 provinces are on duty in disaster areas and continue their search and rescue and health services.
“Our air and land ambulances are also in service in the region. We are currently carrying out the coordination from Hatay, one of the provinces affected by the earthquake disaster,” Koca said on Twitter.
After the earthquake, condolences pour in from around the world, voicing solidarity with Türkiye.
*Seda Sevencan and Enes Calli in Istanbul contributed to this story.