ADDS MORE INFORMATION; EDITS DEATH TOLL; CHANGES HEADLINE; ADDS BACKGROUND
By Diyar Guldogan
ANKARA (AA) – At least 2,316 people were killed and 13,293 others injured in 10 provinces due to two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye on Monday, said an official from the country's disaster agency.
Early Monday morning, a strong 7.7 earthquake, centered in the Pazarcik district, jolted Kahramanmaras and strongly shook several provinces, including Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis.
Later, at 13.24 p.m. (1024GMT), a 7.6 magnitude quake centered in Kahramanmaras’s Elbistan district struck the region.
Orhan Tatar, risk reduction general manager of the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), said that a total of 7,840 people were rescued from the rubble.
More than 25,000 people, including Turkish soldiers, are currently carrying out search and rescue operations in the affected regions, Tatar said.
He added that 250 million Turkish liras (about $13.3 million) in emergency funds had been sent to the provinces in the disaster area so far.
As a "purely precautionary decision," the Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Company (BOTAS) stopped the flow of crude oil in the region, Tatar added.
There is currently no tsunami threat to Türkiye's Eastern Mediterranean coasts, AFAD said.
- 'Biggest disaster' since 1939 Erzincan earthquake
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that with the quake, Türkiye was shaken by the "biggest disaster" since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake.
"Our state has taken action with all its institutions since the earthquake. All resources have been mobilized," he said at the AFAD office in the capital Ankara, where he was coordinating the rescue and relief work.
Erdogan also called on the nation to be of "one heart," saying: "I hope we will leave these disastrous days behind in unity and solidarity as a country and nation."
The president spoke to the mayors of Adana, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis on the phone and learned about search and rescue efforts, according to the presidency.
Türkiye will observe seven days of national mourning after the deadly earthquakes.
"Due to the earthquakes that took place in our country on Feb. 6, a national mourning period was declared for seven days. Our flag will be hoisted at half-mast until sunset on Sunday, Feb. 12, all over our country and in our foreign representations," Erdogan said on Twitter.
Earlier Monday, Oktay told a news conference that Erdogan has been following and managing official efforts since the quake struck.
He added that Hatay Airport is currently closed to flights, saying they have also closed airports in Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep to civil flights.
Oktay said that 102 mobile base stations have been sent to the earthquake zones so far.
He also called on all media outlets, institutions, and organizations to rely on official statements to guard against misinformation.
National Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said education in Türkiye is suspended until next Monday, Feb. 13.
Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said all national sports events in Türkiye have been suspended until further notice.
The earthquake was also felt in several neighboring countries in the region, including Lebanon and Syria.
- Rescue teams on alert
Erdogan conveyed get-well wishes to citizens affected by the earthquakes. He added that AFAD and other units are "on alert."
The president said rescue teams were immediately dispatched to areas affected by the earthquake.
"Our Interior Ministry and Health Ministry, AFAD, provincial governorships, and all other institutions started their work rapidly.
"We are also coordinating our work after the earthquake. We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage, and we continue our work," he said.
Türkiye issued a level 4 alarm, which includes a call for international aid, AFAD said in a statement.
Following a discussion with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, AFAD also said international assistance was called for through the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC).
Besides rescue teams, blankets, tents, food, and psychological support teams were also sent to the region.
- Türkiye sets up 'air aid corridor'
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 a Turkish Armed Forces A-400M, began to dispatch search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes are also using the air aid corridor, Akar added.
"The Turkish Armed Forces continue our efforts to determine damage and casualties. Unfortunately, we have three martyrs. There are also injured," he said.
He later announced that a naval personnel transport ship would dock at the port of Iskenderun in Hatay later in the night to carry those injured to hospitals in Mersin province, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) west.
Health Minister Koca said a sufficient number of teams from all 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," he said on Twitter.
After the earthquakes, condolences poured in from around the world, voicing solidarity with Türkiye.