Rescue operations are under way across much of southern Turkey and northern Syria after two powerful earthquakes struck within the space of 12 hours killing more than 1,700 people.
The first quake, which had a magnitude of 7.8, struck south-eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border killing and injuring people as they slept and trapping many others.
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Then at around 13:30 local time (10:30 GMT) a second quake, with a magnitude of 7.5, hit the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaras province.
So far, more than 1,000 people have died in Turkey and 780 in Syria.
***Update: More than 4,000 people have died and tens of thousands of people in Turkey and war ravaged Syria are now homeless in bitter cold winter conditions.
According to the Guardian: The death toll is expected to rise, with search and rescue operations underway across the region as many buildings have collapsed and there are thought to be many people trapped in the rubble.
Official figures from Turkey say 1,014 people were killed there, 5,383 were injured, and 2,818 buildings had collapsed. Syria’s health ministry said that more than 326 people had been killed and 1,042 injured. In addition to those figures, the White Helmets rescue service in the north-west of Syria in areas not controlled by the government put their death toll at 221, giving a total of 1,561 confirmed dead.
More than 10 search and rescue teams from the European Union have been mobilised in the wake of the major earthquake that has hit Turkey, a spokesperson for the European Commission. The US, UK, Israel, Russia and China are among other nations to have made public offers of assistance.
The first quake struck as people slept, and measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, one of the most powerful quakes in the region in at least a century. It was felt as far away as Cyprus and Cairo. The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said that preliminary data showed the second large quake measured 7.7 magnitude on the Richter scale, and was 67km (42 miles) north-east of Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, at a depth of 2km. There have been more than a 100 smaller aftershocks registered by seismologists.
The first quake had its epicentre near Gaziantep, and it has damaged the historic castle there which had been in use since Roman times.
Turkey’s armed forces have set up an air corridor to enable search and rescue teams to reach the zone affected.
Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is currently under construction, was not damaged by the earthquake, an official from the Russian company building the plant said.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called for increased funding for humanitarian aid in Syria, saying that many people in the northwest of the country have already been displaced up to 20 times, and that medical care in the region was “strained beyond capacity, even before this tragedy.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was concerned about areas in Turkey from which there had been no news following the deadly overnight earthquake.