Hundreds dead in Turkey, Syria after powerful earthquake
Hundreds of people have died after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed buildings in southern Turkey and northern Syria. Tremors were felt as far away as Lebanon, Cyprus and Egypt.
The death toll has continued to rise rapidly following a strong earthquake which rocked southern Turkey and northern Syria in the early hours of Monday morning.
Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay said that 284 people were confirmed dead across 10 provinces, while more than 2,000 people have been injured.
Health officials in Syria say the death toll has risen to more than 230 there.
"The earthquake toll rose to 237 killed and 639 injured," Ahmed Damiriyye, an aide to Syria's health minister, said on Syrian state television.
The US Geological Service said a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Gaziantep, a key industrial hub near the border with Syria.
Rescue efforts underway
Rescue workers have been deployed in Turkey and Syria to pull survivors from the rubble. Residents have also been helping search for survivors among the piles of rubble and debris.
Heavy snowfall was hampering rescue efforts in some parts with roads covered in ice and snow.
"I convey my best wishes to all our citizens who were affected by the earthquake," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter.
"We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage."
Tremors could also be felt as far as Lebanon, Cyprus, and Egypt.
While Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) was coordinating search and rescue operations, international agencies are also deploying resources to help.
The EU's Crisis Commissioner Janez Lenarcic confirmed that rescue teams from the Netherlands and Romania were traveling to Turkey to help local agencies.
Turkey's military has established an air corridor to enable search and rescue teams to reach disaster zones as quickly as possible.
"We mobilised our planes to send medical teams, search and rescue teams and their vehicles to the earthquake zone," a statement citing Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.
Buildings destroyed in Turkey, Syria
According to early reports a large number of buildings have been destroyed in provinces in southern Turkey.
Turkey's vice president said in a briefing that around 1,700 building had collapsed.
Syria's state media also reported that some buildings had collapsed in Aleppo and the central city of Hama. Tremors were also felt in Damascus.
The head of Syria's National Earthquake Center, Raed Ahmed, told local media that this was "historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the center."
The White Helmets rescue organization said buildings also collapsed in the rebel-held areas of northwestern Syria, adding that the situation was "disastrous."
The region is one of the world's most active earthquake zones.
Thousands of people were killed and many more displaced when a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the western city of Izmit in 1999.
In 2011, more than 500 people were killed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in the eastern city of Van.
Offers of support
Turkey's government has declared a "level 4 alarm" that calls for international assistance.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he had been in communication with Turkish officials and said the US was ready to help.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his dismay at the news of the earthquake and said: "We mourn with the victims and fear for those buried. Germany will of course send help."
Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: "My thoughts are with the relatives of the victims of this terrible earthquake," and went on to say "Together with our partners, we will quickly get help on the way."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed "full solidarity with our ally Turkiye" and said that he was in touch with President Erdogan. Stoltenberg said that allies were mobilizing support.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent a message of support and also offered assistance.
"I am shocked to learn of deaths and injuries of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey," Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet. "At this time, we stand by the friendly Turkish people and are ready to provide the necessary assistance,'' Zelenskyy said.
Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also said his country was prepared to provide any assistance if needed.
kb,zc/fb (AFP, Reuters, AP)
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