The death toll from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks rose to more than 5,000 on Tuesday as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Turkiye’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total number of deaths in Turkey had risen to 3,419, with another 20,534 people injured. That brought the number of people killed to 5,102, with another 1,602 people confirmed dead on the Syrian side of the border.
The earthquake struck early Monday morning, bringing down thousands of buildings. Rescuers were racing frantically to find more survivors but their efforts were being impeded by temperatures below freezing and some 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.
According to the United States Geological Service (USGS), the earthquake struck at a depth of about 17.9km (11 miles). Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) put the magnitude of the quake at 7.4 near the cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep.
Dozens of aftershocks were recorded following the quake with officials urging people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks.
Less than 12 hours later, a second 7.6 magnitude tremor struck the same region.
In a statement carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency, AFAD listed the affected regions so far as Kahramanmaras, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay and Kilis.
Thousands more have been affected across the border in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and Latakia.’
The earthquake’s epicentre is home to millions of Syrian refugees living in Turkey outside the city of Gaziantep.
Thousands of residents have been left without shelter in freezing temperatures. Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing by Tuesday, with the low in Gaziantep falling to -6 Celsius (21 Fahrenheit).
Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake is the most powerful to hit the country since 1999.
In August 1999, a powerful magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Marmara, a densely populated region to the south of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, for 45 seconds. Within days, the official death toll stood at 17,500.