Two powerful earthquakes on February 6 killed at least 1,541 people in southern Turkey and 910 in northern Syria, according to local authorities in both countries.
However, the death toll is expected to rise further as emergency workers struggle to rescue survivors from under the rubble of the collapsed building.
The first quake of magnitude 7.7 occurred at 4:14 am local time.
According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD), the epicenter was in the Pazardjik district of Karamanmaras province in southern Turkey.
In addition to Kahramammaras, the first quake affected the southern Turkish provinces of Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis.
Nine hours later, at 1:24 pm local time, a second magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit the same area, causing more casualties and worsening destruction.
The epicenter of the second quake was in the Elbistan district of Kahramammaras state, according to AFAD.
“There are a lot of collapsed buildings in this area,” said 52-year-old Abdulkadir Aitak, a baker in Elbistan, shortly after the second quake.
“The buildings that are still standing are in terrible condition,” Aytac told The Epoch Times. “If there are aftershocks, more buildings will collapse.”
At the time of writing, Turkish authorities put the death toll at 1,541 and the injured at 9,733, but more than 3,470 buildings were reported to have collapsed in 10 southern provinces as a result of the earthquake.
More than 2,400 survivors have been successfully recovered from under the rubble so far, according to local reports, but thousands more are feared to remain trapped.
Orhan Tatar, director general of AFAD’s seismic and risk reduction department, was quoted by Turkey’s Anadolu Agency as saying, “Severe seismic activity is still continuing in the region.”
Aftershocks up to a magnitude of 6.7 are likely to continue for the next few hours, he said.
The twin quakes also caused considerable destruction in northern Syria, where strong tremors were reported in the provinces of Idlib, Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Raqqa.
At least 910 people have been killed and hundreds more injured, according to the Syrian Ministry of Health, although those numbers are expected to rise.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden reportedly ordered his administration to provide Turkey with “all necessary assistance.”
Biden tweeted that he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin also extended his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone.
Putin also offered to provide assistance to Turkey in search and rescue operations and disaster relief, according to Turkey’s General Directorate of Communications.
Speaking just before the second quake, Erdogan called it the “greatest natural disaster” to hit Turkey, the first since the 1939 earthquake in central Erzincan province that killed 32,000 people. .
However, in 1999, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck the northwestern Turkish province of Izmit, killing more than 17,000 people.