ISLAMABAD, Feb 06 (Agencies/ APP Web Desk): A 7.8 magnitude earthquake on early Monday jolted southern Turkiye and northwest Syria, killing over 2600 people in their sleep, levelling buildings and causing tremors felt as far away as Greenland, news agencies and Al Jazeera reported.
At least 968 people killed in rebel and government-controlled parts of Syria, state media and medical sources said whereas 1651 people killed in Turkey.
Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of buildings in multiple cities on both sides of the border.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will observe seven days of national mourning for the victims of Monday’s earthquake.
World leaders pledged to send aid after Turkey issued an international appeal for help.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the dispatch of aid to the two earthquake hit countries.
The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centred north of the city of Gaziantep in an area about 95km (60 miles) from the Syrian border.
Authorities said 16 structures collapsed in Sanliurfa and 34 in Osmaniye. Broadcasters TRT and Haberturk showed footage of people picking through building wreckage, moving stretchers and seeking survivors in the city of Kahramanmaras, where it was still dark.
According to Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) the 7.8 magnitude quake struck at 4.17 a.m. (0117GMT) and was centered in the Pazarcik district in Türkiye’s southern province of Kahramanmaras. The quake occurred at a depth of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).
AFAD said in a statement that 78 aftershocks occurred following the earthquake. Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana, Adıyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis provinces are heavily affected by the quake.
National Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said schools in Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Adana, Osmaniye and Kilis provinces will be closed for one week.
The health personnel assigned from the National Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry departed from Ankara to the region with two military ambulance planes.
Besides rescue teams, blankets, and food, psychological support teams were also sent to the region.
President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone with the governors of eight affected provinces to gather information on the situation and rescue efforts, his office said in a statement.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” the Turkish leader tweeted.
According to Türkiye state-run news agency Anadolu after the earthquake, an “air aid corridor” was created by the Turkish Armed Forces to deliver search and rescue teams to the region.
“We mobilized our planes to send medical teams, search and rescue teams and their vehicles to the earthquake zone. We have maximized the readiness of our aircraft to provide the necessary transportation service,” National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
A large number of transport aircraft, including an A-400M of the Turkish Armed Forces, began to dispatch search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes also take part in the “air aid corridor,” Akar added.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said a sufficient number of teams from 81 provinces are on duty in disaster areas and continue their search and rescue and health services.
“Our air and land ambulances are also in service in the region. We are currently carrying out the coordination from Hatay, one of the provinces affected by the earthquake disaster,” Koca said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Syrian side of the border at least 473 people were killed in Syria as buildings collapsed , its state media and a medical source said.
At least 11 people were killed in Atmeh and many more were buried in the rubble, Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor in the town, told The Associated Press news agency by telephone.
In Syria, Aleppo city alone, 24 people died and 100 were injured when 20 buildings collapsed in the province, its official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official.
It added that the earthquake was felt from Latakia on the coast in the west to Damascus.
“This earthquake is the strongest since the National Earthquake Centre was founded in 1995,” Raed Ahmed, who heads the centre, told SANA.
“The situation is very tragic, tens of buildings have collapsed in the city of Salqin,” a member of the White Helmets rescue organisation said in a video clip on Twitter, referring to another town about five kilometres from the Turkish border.
Homes were “totally destroyed”, said the rescuer on the clip, which showed a street strewn with rubble.
Near the border town of Azaz, an AFP correspondent saw rescuers pull survivors as well as five bodies from the rubble of a three-storey building that had collapsed.
The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999, when more than 17,000 people died –including about 1,000 in Istanbul.
Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with rickety homes.
The last 7.8-magnitude tremor shook Turkey in 1939, when 33,000 died in the eastern Erzincan province.