Over 17,600 dead in powerful earthquakes in southern Türkiye

At least 17,674 people were killed and 72,879 others injured by two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye earlier this week, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Thursday.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes, centered in Kahramanmaras province, were felt Monday by 13 million people across 10 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, felt the strong tremors that struck Türkiye in the space of fewer than 10 hours.

More than 120,344 search and rescue personnel are currently working in the field, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD).

A total of 30,360 people were evacuated from quake-hit regions, AFAD said in a statement.

Speaking in Kilis, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that a total of 6,444 buildings had collapsed in the quake zone.

"Last Monday, we were confronted with the worst earthquake this region has ever seen in its history," he added.

Vice President Oktay said while speaking in parliament that "the earthquake affected an area of ​​approximately 110,000 square kilometers (about 42,471 square miles). This is equal to or greater than the area of ​​many countries in Europe.

"This earthquake is the third-largest to occur since the 1668 Great Anatolia earthquake and the 1939 Erzincan earthquake in the last 2,000 years on the Anatolian geography."

Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop called on lawmakers Thursday to make donations worth at least one month's wage to the country's disaster management agency, adding he had donated three monthly wages.

During a visit to southern Gaziantep province, Erdogan said: "Our state has been in the field with all its institutions starting from the moment of the earthquake."

Foreign teams in field

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said 95 countries and 16 international organizations offered to send Türkiye assistance, with many nations sending search and rescue teams, doctors, field hospitals and aid materials to the quake-hit region.

Speaking in the capital Ankara, Cavusoglu said 6,479 personnel from 56 countries were currently in the field.

"Teams from 19 more countries will be in our country within 24 hours," he added at the news conference alongside Tahsin Ertugruloglu, his counterpart from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Ertugruloglu said every Turkish Cypriot's heart beats with Türkiye.

Besides rescue teams, blankets, tents, food and psychological support teams were also sent to affected areas.

A total of 97,973 family tents have been set up to shelter survivors, AFAD said.

It added that 10,363 vehicles including excavators, tractors and bulldozers were sent to the disaster area.

Teams in Sanliurfa and Kilis completed their search operations and have been dispatched to other provinces, AFAD said.

State of emergency declared

Erdogan on Wednesday inspected the ongoing search and rescue as well as relief efforts in the Adana, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces as well as one of the epicenters, Pazarcik, where he met survivors in tent cities.

First lady Emine Erdogan on Wednesday visited 16 infant survivors who were airlifted from Kahramanmaras to a hospital in Ankara.

Türkiye has mobilized all its resources for post-quake efforts, President Erdogan said, adding: "The state is working with municipalities, especially with AFAD, with all its resources."

A three-month state of emergency to speed up rescue and aid efforts in Türkiye's quake-hit provinces entered into force Thursday.

In addition, Türkiye is observing seven days of national mourning after the devastating quakes.

All national sports events in the country have been suspended until further notice and schools nationwide will be closed until Feb. 20.

After the quakes, condolences poured in from around the world expressing solidarity with Türkiye, with many countries sending rescue teams and aid.

Türkiye sets up air corridor

After the initial earthquake, an air aid corridor was created by the Turkish Armed Forces to deliver search and rescue teams to the region.

A large number of aircraft for transport, including A-400Ms, carried search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes are also using the air aid corridor.

Nearly 19,000 Turkish soldiers also rushed to the aid of people in the field, the National Defense Ministry said in a statement.

All barracks, including the 2nd Army Command in Malatya, were opened to the service of citizens affected by the earthquakes.

Rescue and relief personnel and materials were dispatched to the region with 160 aircraft, AFAD said.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Thursday that the Turkish Armed Forces have mobilized all aircraft.

"Within this framework, we dispatch personnel and equipment to the earthquake zone with more than 500 aircraft sorties," Akar said.

In addition, the flights of two Akinci drones are being used to coordinate work in disaster areas.

A total of 22 ships were also assigned to the region for personnel and material shipment and for evacuation.

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