At least 2,300 killed as 3 powerful earthquakes hit Turkey, Syria
Istanbul/IBNS: At least 2,300 people have been killed in three powerful earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria in nearly a century, sparking frantic rescue operations.
A magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck Türkiye's southern province of Kahramanmaras at 4:17 a.m. local time (0117 GMT).
It was followed by a magnitude-6.4 quake a few minutes later in the country's southern province of Gaziantep and a magnitude-7.6 earthquake at 1:24 p.m. local time (1024 GMT) in the Kahramanmaras Province.
At least 78 aftershocks were recorded, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has said. The quakes were also felt in Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus.
The quake hit the provinces of Malatya, Şanlıurfa, Osmaniye and Diyarbakır, although the toll threatened to climb much higher because of the heavy damage.
The first earthquake was followed by two more earthquakes.
According to the country's disaster agency, the strong earthquake originated in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş.
The Syrian government has set up a 24-hour central operation center to coordinate earthquake relief operations, with all relevant ministries, institutions and authorities on alert, state news agency SANA reported.
The central operation centre was led by Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous.
Historic sites in Syria were affected, as parts of the Ottoman mill in the Citadel of Aleppo fell and the defensive walls have cracks, said the antiquities and museums directorate.
Inside the Citadel whose entrances were damaged, large parts of the dome of the lighthouse of the Ayyubid mosque also fell, while the facade of the Ottoman hospice was damaged, the directorate added.
"This earthquake is the strongest since 1995," said Raed Ahmed, director general of the National Seismological Center.
Soon after the tremors, Türkiye's state-owned energy company BOTAS suspended natural gas flow to the southern provinces of Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras. The airport in Hatay was damaged and flights were halted.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said there were power outages in the provinces of Antep, Hatay and Kilis, according to Turkish media reports.
People trying to leave the quake-hit areas, causing traffic jams and hampering emergency efforts, the NTV reported.
The temperatures were recorded as minus 10 degrees Celsius in most of the 10 Turkish provinces that were affected by the quakes, which came with rains and snowfall, according to Türkiye's meteorology agency.
Türkiye's Defense Ministry has put the Turkish Armed Forces Humanitarian Aid Brigade and transport planes on standby. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, the chief of general staff and the chief of land forces were all heading to the affected areas.
"We dispatched all our search and rescue teams to earthquake zones. We set the highest alert," Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters.
Ali Yerlikaya, the governor of Türkiye's largest city Istanbul, said on social media that over 1,000 people, including healthcare workers, four search and rescue dogs, and 30 tonnes of aid materials had been dispatched to the quake-hit region.
Tunc Soyer, mayor of the city of Izmir on Türkiye's western coast, announced that the municipality's search and rescue teams, comprised of seven vehicles and 41 people, had been sent to the southeastern province of Osmaniye.
Many Turkish provinces near the quake-hit areas have also sent medical teams and ambulances, according to local media reports.
In Syria, soon after the earthquake, the government set up a 24-hour central operation centre led by Prime Minister Hussein Arnous to coordinate earthquake relief operations. All relevant ministries, institutions and authorities were on alert, state news agency SANA reported.
Relief operations were already underway in the central Syrian city of Hama, according to Syrian Interior Minister Muhammad Khaled Rahmoun.
"Rescuers have started to save people from under the rubble, hospitalize the wounded, provide medical help to the wounded, and secure shelters for people whose buildings were damaged," he said.
Historic sites in Syria were affected. Parts of the Ottoman mill in the Citadel of Aleppo fell and the defensive walls have cracks, said the antiquities and museums directorate.
Rescue operation is currently going on in both nations.
[With UNI inputs]