Turkey earthquake: Powerful quake kills more than 3,400 people in Turkey and Syria

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ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on the search for survivors after two major earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria

More than 3,400 people have been killed and hundreds injured after two major earthquakes struck central Turkey and north-west Syria on Monday.

At 4am, a powerful 7.8 magnitude quake rocked south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria. The tremors from the earthquake, which was centred about 60 miles from the Syrian border, just north of the city of Gaziantep, were felt as far away as Cairo in Egypt.

Less than 10 hours later, at about 1.30pm local time, a new earthquake hit about 80 miles from the first epicentre.

Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 200 miles to the northeast.

People search through the wreckage of a collapsed building, in Azmarin town. Credit: AP

Rescue teams are being hampered by bad weather, with temperatures expected to drop well below freezing, and severe aftershocks which risk the collapse of structures already weakened by the earthquake.

The quake affected rebel-held areas of Syria, already devastated by an 11-year civil war, which are home to millions of displaced people living in decrepit conditions.

These rebel-held pockets have already had their healthcare and their social infrastructure devastated by bombardments, ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo said.

He added that getting help in some of those areas will be more difficult.

Thousands of Syrians will be suffering both in their own country and in Turkey tonight, Rohit Kachroo reports

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the death toll from the powerful earthquake could reach as high as 10,000 people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise."

"Our hope is that we recover from this disaster with the least loss of life possible", he added. "I pray that God protects us and all humanity from such natural disasters."

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said its hospitals in Syria "are overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways".

A child sits on a hospital gurney after the devastating earthquake. Credit: SAMS

Mosques around the region were being opened up as shelters for people unable to return to damaged homes amid freezing temperatures.

Many of the buildings in the towns affected in Syria have already been weakened by more than a decade of war. 

The region has been under siege for years, enduring frequent Russian and government airstrikes, and depends on aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

UNICEF warned there are now thousands of children and families are now at risk.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook central Turkey early on Monday and was followed by a strong aftershock

The organisation said it was working with authorities in both impacted countries.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said: "The initial earthquake happened so early in the morning, when many children were fast asleep, made it even more dangerous, and the aftershocks bring continuing risks.

"Our hearts and thoughts are with the children and families affected, especially those who have lost loved ones or who have been injured.

"Our immediate priority is to ensure children and families affected receive the support they so desperately need."

ITV News speaks to a survivor of the earthquake

Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets, the emergency organisation in opposition areas, said whole neighbourhoods collapsed in some areas.

At least 20 aftershocks have been reported hampering rescue and search efforts and causing the collapse of already damaged buildings. Gaziantep’s famous second-century historic castle was badly damaged in the quake.

A video sent to ITV News by Abdulkafi Alhamdo from Atārib in north-west Syria shows the marketplace - where 150 people were killed in a bombing in 2017 - in ruins. He said that those who were affected six years ago were once again hit by tragedy.

"This time they didn't escape the destruction," Mr Alhamdo said. There was just one vehicle and people digging with their bare hands, he said. "Unfortunately, they can do nothing."

Building in Şanlıurfa collapses as a result of aftershocks following the earlier quake

Mr Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.

The UK, US, Israel, India, Pakistan and Ukraine are among the countries to offer condolences and pledge support following the disaster.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK is ready to offer assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake.

People walk next to a mosque destroyed by an earthquake in Malatya, Turkey, Credit: PA

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the government would be "sending immediate support", with a team of 76 search-and-rescue specialists, equipment and four search dogs being sent to Turkey.

The United States was also ready to provide assistance to help with the earthquake rescue effort. In a tweet, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US was “profoundly concerned by today’s destructive earthquake” in Turkey and Syria.

US President Joe Biden has conveyed his condolences to those affected by the deadly quake and offered to send help to Turkey if needed.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria,” Mr Biden wrote on Twitter, referring to Turkey by its preferred official name.

“I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye and provide any and all needed assistance,” he added.

A collapsed building in Diyarbakir province. Credit: EBU

The president of war-torn Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, sent a message of support to Turkey to offer assistance in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

“I am shocked to learn of deaths and injuries of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey,” Mr Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet.

“We send our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. At this time, we stand by the friendly Turkish people and are ready to provide the necessary assistance.”

Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at University College London said the earthquake was "by far the largest quake ever recorded in this region".

Turkey's neighbour Greece and other countries in the region have offered to send immediate assistance to help with the rescue effort.

Israel's defence minister Yoav Galant said the country is preparing to provide emergency aid to Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also offered condolences in telegrams to the leaders of Syria and Turkey and expressed readiness to help.

People and rescue teams try to reach trapped residents inside collapsed buildings in Adana. Credit: AP

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said: "We are deeply concerned for all those affected and are closely monitoring the situation against the DEC’s criteria for launching an appeal. Several DEC charities have existing programmes in Syria and Turkey and will be supporting the local response."

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Monday's earthquake occurred along the East Anatolian Fault which was largely inactive during the 20th century but was responsible for devastating earthquakes in 1822 and 1872, according to Dr Roger Musson, honorary research associate at the British Geological Survey.

Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

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