ADDS DISASTER AGENCY STATEMENT, INTERIOR MINISTER'S REMARKS; CHANGES THROUGH
By Diyar Guldogan and Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) - At least 4,544 people were killed and 26,721 others injured in 10 provinces of Türkiye after two strong earthquakes on Monday jolted the southern part of the country, according to the country's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
Early Monday morning, a 7.7 magnitude tremor struck the Kahramanmaras province. Then about nine hours later, a 7.6 magnitude quake also centered in Kahramanmaras rocked the region, affecting several other provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa.
The earthquake was also felt in several countries in the region, including Lebanon and Syria.
A total of 59,971 emergency officials are working in the area, including 3,200 personnel from 65 countries, AFAD said in a statement.
In a press briefing, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said at least 18,000 gendarmes and nearly 10,000 police officers have been dispatched to the scene.
An additional 10,000 gendarmes will soon be dispatched to the scene, he said.
At least 941 buildings in Kahramanmaras have completely collapsed, he added.
- Search and rescue operations continue
Earlier Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "... The fact that over 8,000 of our citizens have been rescued from the wreckage is our greatest relief," at the State Information Coordination Center in the capital Ankara.
Erdogan announced that Türkiye decided to declare a state of emergency for three months in 10 provinces in order for search and rescue operations and other efforts to be carried out rapidly.
"We’re facing one of the biggest disasters not only of the history of the republic but also of our geography and the world," he stressed.
Türkiye has been making efforts in disaster-hit areas with all its institutions, personnel, and means with a spirit of mobilization, the president added.
A total of 53,317 search and rescue personnel and support personnel are operating in affected areas, Erdogan said, adding: "This number is rising with every passing hour, with teams coming from across the country and the world."
Türkiye has so far gotten offers of assistance from 70 different countries and 14 international organizations, Erdogan said.
"We talked to 18 heads of state and government who called us. I would like to thank all our friends, all heads of state and government who called us, sent messages, and made statements to convey their support and offer of assistance in this difficult day of our country," he added.
Vice President Fuat Oktay said a total of 380,500 victims were given shelter in dormitories of the National Education Ministry and the Youth and Sports Ministry.
A total of 3,294 search and rescue personnel reached Türkiye from 14 countries, including Azerbaijan and Russia, he said.
"We are sending over 1,600 additional search and rescue teams, both from abroad and our own, to Hatay," Türkiye’s southernmost province, he said.
Oktay also announced that as of 11 a.m., the entrance of vehicles to Hatay, Kahramanmaras, and Adiyaman was stopped for 48 hours, except for those making disaster-related shipments.
As many as 5,775 buildings collapsed, said Orhan Tatar, the general director of earthquake and risk reduction at AFAD.
Tatar said the impact area of the quakes covers approximately 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles).
Some 13.5 million citizens have been directly affected by the quakes, said Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum.
- 'Biggest disaster' since 1939 Erzincan quake
Türkiye is observing a seven-day period of national mourning after the deadly quakes.
All national sports events in Türkiye have been suspended until further notice, and all schools in Türkiye will be closed until Feb. 13, and the schools in the 10 affected provinces until Feb. 20.
The parties represented in parliament – the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Republican People's Party (CHP), Good (IYI) Party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) – also issued a joint statement on the quakes.
"As representatives of the Turkish Parliament Speakership and the five political parties that have groups in the assembly, we stand by and at the service of our citizens," the statement said.
Erdogan on Monday 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 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."
- 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 high number of transport aircraft, including A-400Ms, dispatched search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes are also using the air aid corridor.
Nearly 9,000 Turkish soldiers also rushed to the aid of citizens in the field.
"Our citizens affected by the earthquake are being hosted in the barracks of our 2nd Army Command in Malatya," the Turkish National Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
In addition, the flights of two Akinci drones, used to coordinate work in disaster areas, continue.
Besides rescue teams, blankets, tents, food, and psychological support teams were also sent to affected regions.
After the quakes, condolences poured in from around the world expressing solidarity with Türkiye, with many countries sending rescue teams and aid.