LIVE – Updated at 02:49
At least 2,921 have died in Turkey, while Syria toll stands at 1,444; WHO says deaths could pass 20,000.
My colleagues Ben Doherty and Mostafa Rachwani have this report on the earthquake survivors joining the search for the missing:
“There is a family I know under the rubble,” Omer El Cuneyd said, standing amid the chaos of the shattered city of Sanliurfa.
“Until 11am or noon, my friend was still answering the phone. But she no longer answers. She is down there. I think her battery ran out,” he said, hoping against hope, for a miracle.
On the road, a stream of cars crawled north out of the city, taking traumatised residents away from the scene of Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in decades.
Nearby, a distraught family walked in the freezing rain, their belongings piled into a pram, look for a shelter to spend the night in.
Sanliurfa, an historic, once-bustling city in southeastern Turkey, was devastated by the series of massive earthquakes that struck southern Turkey early on Monday morning, claiming more than 4,300 lives across the mostly Kurdish regions of the country and in neighbouring Syria.
Related: ‘Like the end of days’: shellshocked survivors join hunt for missing in Turkey-Syria earthquake
My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest from the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. You can get in touch with me directly on Twitter here if you see news you think we may have missed.
The death toll from the two quakes has risen to more than 4,300 according to government figures. At least 2,921 have been confirmed dead in Turkey, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said, and 1,444 in Syria, according to figures from the Damascus Government and rescue workers. Thousands more are injured, and the death toll is expected to rise.
In 1999, when a tremor of similar magnitude hit the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, it killed more than 17,000. The WHO warned that the toll from Monday’s earthquakes could pass 20,000.
Here is what we know so far:
The first quake struck as people slept, and measured magnitude 7.8, 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 preliminary data showed the second large quake measured 7.7 magnitude, and was 67km (42 miles) north-east of Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, at a depth of 2km.
In 1999, when a tremor of similar magnitude hit the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, it killed more than 17,000.
The death toll could rise to over 20,000, the World Health Organization’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, said. “There’s continued potential of further collapses to happen so we do often see in the order of eight fold increases on the initial numbers,” she told AFP, speaking when the estimated toll stood at 2,600. “We always see the same thing with earthquakes, unfortunately, which is that the initial reports of the numbers of people who have died or who have been injured will increase quite significantly in the week that follows,” Smallwood added.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to offer condolences and reaffirm Washington’s readiness to assist in rescue efforts, the White House said. Biden “noted that US teams are deploying quickly to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and coordinate other assistance that may be required by people affected by the earthquakes, including health services or basic relief items,” the White House said in a statement.
Syria’s envoy to the UN said Monday that aid sent after the earthquake will reach all its population, even though Damascus does not control all of its territory. Asked if aid donated to Syria – some areas are held by rebels – would reach all of the population, Syria’s UN envoy Bassam Sabbagh said it would. “We assure the UN that we are ready to help and to coordinate to provide assistance to all Syrians in all territory of Syria,” Sabbagh said after meeting with UN secretary general António Guterres to convey a Syrian government request for aid. “We are ready to help also those who wanted to provide the help in all Syria,” he stressed.
More than 10 search and rescue teams from the European Union have been mobilised to help with the recovery, 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.
Prisoners mutinied in a northwestern Syria prison Monday after the earthquake, with at least 20 escaping the jail holding mostly Islamic State group members, a source at the facility told AFP.
There have been more than a 100 smaller aftershocks registered by seismologists.
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 Swedish presidency of the European Union has activated the integrated political crisis response (IPCR) to coordinate EU support measures in response to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the EU Council said in a statement. The IPCR arrangements strengthen the EU’s ability to take rapid decisions when facing major cross-sectoral crises requiring a response at the EU level.
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 partial destruction of a Roman-era castle in the Turkish city of Gaziantep 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.