At least 2,600 people have been killed after two powerful earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria within the space of 12 hours. The death toll is expected to rise, with search and rescue operations under way across the region as many buildings have collapsed and there are thought to be many people trapped in the rubble.
Official figures from Turkey said 1,651 people were killed across 10 provinces, with another 11,119 injured, according to the country’s health minister. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria rose to 968 people, with 1,280 injured, according to data from the Damascus government and rescue workers in the northwestern region controlled by insurgents.
More than 10 search-and-rescue teams from the European Union have been mobilised since the earthquake that has hit Turkey, a spokesperson for the European Commission said. The US, UK, Canada, Israel, Russia and China are among other nations to have offered assistance and calls have emerged for the international community to relax some of the political restrictions on aid entering north-west Syria, the country’s last rebel-held enclave and one of the areas worst hit by the earthquake.
The partial destruction of a Roman-era castle in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near where the first quake had its epicentre, has led to fears that two earthquakes that struck on Monday may have damaged other priceless monuments in Turkey and Syria, areas rich in cultural heritage.
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 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 north-west 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 since the earthquake.
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