More than 2,600 dead in Turkey and Syria after major earthquakes
- A rescue operation is under way across much of southern Turkey and northern Syria following a huge earthquake that has killed more than 2,600 people
- The 7.8 magnitude quake struck near Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday while people were asleep
- A new 7.5-magnitude tremor hit at around 13:30 local time (10:30 GMT), which officials said was “not an aftershock”
- The country’s vice-president says some 1,500 people were killed in Turkey alone after the first quake, and more than 9,700 were wounded
- Syrian authorities are reporting 810 dead and more than 2,000 injured, according to the AFP news agency
- Rescuers are racing to save people trapped beneath the rubble after hundreds of buildings collapsed in both countries
- World leaders have pledged to send aid after Turkey issued an international appeal for help
- Millions of people across Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Israel felt the earthquake
Syria’s war-torn city of Aleppo is among the areas to have borne the brunt of a deadly earthquake, which also devastated parts of southern Turkey.
More than 1,000 people have been reported dead so far in northern Syria following the quake.
Emergency rescue teams said many buildings are damaged or destroyed and that people remain trapped under the rubble.
The region is home to millions of refugees displaced by the civil war.
Control of northern Syria is divided between the government, Kurdish-led forces and other rebel groups. They remain embroiled in conflict.
Even before the earthquake the situation in much of the region was critical, with freezing weather, crumbling infrastructure and a cholera outbreak causing misery for many of those who live there.
According to separate figures from the Syrian government and the White Helmets rescue group, which operates in rebel-controlled areas, more than 1,000 people have died in the region so far after the earthquake.
A video published on social media, and verified by the BBC, showed a building in Aleppo crashing to the ground as onlookers rushed to safety.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Twelve hours later, a second quake, which was nearly as large, struck 130km (80 miles) to the north.
A spokesperson for the White Helmets described north-western Syria as a “disaster area” and said that families remain trapped under the rubble.
In government-controlled areas, all of the country’s emergency services have been made available, including the army and student volunteers. However, BBC Monitoring’s Hesham Shawish, a Middle East specialist, says this is not enough to deal with the scale of the destruction.
The International Rescue Committee, a charity with more than 1,000 members of staff on the ground in opposition-held areas of Syria, said it was already dealing with the region’s first cholera outbreak in a decade and preparing for approaching snowstorms when the quake hit.
Freezing conditions and torrential rain were hampering rescue efforts.
Mark Kaye, the organisation’s Middle East advocacy director, described the situation as a “crisis within a crisis within a crisis” and said vast swathes of the region are beyond contact because of damage to communication networks.
Some people in remote areas are said to have been displaced as many as 20 times due to the civil war, which broke out in 2011 when a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad turned into violence.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians and fighters have been killed in the conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis has been compounded in recent years by an unprecedented economic downturn.
Entire neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure, including hospitals, across Syria were already in ruins as a result of the fighting before the earthquake struck.
The government has called for international assistance – appealing specifically to United Nations member states, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups.
However, it has reportedly rejected claims that it has asked for Israel’s aid. The two countries are still technically at war and don’t currently have any diplomatic relations.
Dozens of other nations have promised help, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. The UN said it has teams on the ground that are assessing the situation and providing assistance.
Russia, which already has a military presence in Syria due to its involvement in the civil war on the government’s side, has also pledged its support.
Turkish president declares seven days of mourning
Turkey has declared seven days of mourning after at least 1,650 people died following two earthquakes which struck the country today.
“A national mourning period has been declared for seven days. Our flag will be hoisted at half-mast until sunset on Sunday, 12 February 2023, in all our national and foreign representative offices,” tweeted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It comes after Turkish government officials reported another 1,651 fatalities, putting the combined total in Turkey and neighbouring Syria to 2,651.
Dozens of nations have pledged aid since the 7.8-magnitude quake, which hit as people were still sleeping and in freezing weather that has hampered emergency efforts.
Multi-storey apartment buildings full of residents were among the 3,400 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.
What’s the latest?
If you’re just joining us or need a catch-up, here’s the latest on the ongoing situation in Turkey and Syria:
The death toll… from a strong earthquake in south-eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, has exceeded 2,600 people across both countries – and it’s expected to keep rising
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake… struck near the southern city of Gaziantep, and is understood to have caused the majority of fatalities, while a second quake of 7.5 magnitude hit 80 miles north near the city of Kahramanmaras
Rescuers are combing… through mountains of rubble in freezing, snowy weather with one Kahramanmaras resident comparing the situation to an “apocalypse”
Many thousands of people… have been injured, with at least 9,700 people hurt in Turkey and 2,000 in Syria
A White Helmets rescue group volunteer… said many families “remained under the rubble” and rescuers were “trying to save them”
The EU… is sending search and rescue teams to Turkey, while rescuers from the Netherlands and Romania are already on their way. The UK has said it will send 76 specialists, equipment and rescue dogs
In pictures: Religious buildings damaged by quake
We are seeing more of the after-effects of the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey earlier on Monday, with pictures of destroyed religious buildings in Iskenderun and Malatya.