Over 1,800 people have died after a huge earthquake hit Turkey and Syria.
The 7.8-magnitude quake was centred in the town of Pazarcik in Kahramanmaras province, about 20 miles from the city of Gaziantep, at a depth of six miles and there were several powerful aftershocks.
With thousands injured, the death toll is expected to increase as rescue workers search the rubble.
Another 7.5 magnitude earthquake later hit central Turkey.
Another earthquake hits central Turkey – live updates
On both sides of the border, residents were jolted from their sleep and rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night as buildings fell around them and strong aftershocks continued.
“I have never felt anything like it in the 40 years I’ve lived,” said Erdem, a resident of Gaziantep. “We were shaken at least three times very strongly, like a baby in a crib.”
The quake heavily damaged Gaziantep’s most famous landmark, a historic castle perched atop a hill in the centre of the city. Parts of the fortresses’ walls and watch towers collapsed, with other parts heavily damaged, images showed.
At least 20 aftershocks followed the quake, the strongest measuring 6.6, according to Turkish authorities.
Rescue workers and residents worked through tangles of metal and giant piles of debris in their search for survivors.
Turkish broadcaster RTR showed rescue workers in Osmaniye province using a blanket to carry an injured man from a collapsed four-storey building – he was the fifth to be pulled from the rubble, it said.
‘Level 4 alarm’ raised
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was unclear how high the number of dead and injured could rise to.
“Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise,” Mr Erdogan said.
“Hopefully, we will leave these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a nation.”
He said 2,818 buildings collapsed after the first tremor, describing it as the country’s “largest disaster” since 1939, when a major earthquake struck the eastern province of Erzincan.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay declared a “level 4 alarm” that calls for international assistance.
‘We are under extreme pressure’ as teams work in rain and sleet
In Syria, already devastated by more than 11 years of civil war, numerous buildings tumbled down in the provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia and the central city of Hama.
State TV showed footage of rescue teams searching for survivors in heavy rain and sleet.
In the northwest of the country, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous”, adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble.
Tremors felt as far as Egypt
In Beirut and Damascus, there were reports of buildings shaking and people gathering on the streets in fear.
There have so far been no reports of fatalities or serious damage in Egypt, Lebanon or Cyprus, where the quake was also felt.
Timing of quake is behind rapidly rising death toll – and why it will be tough to get aid to Syria
The images coming out of southern Turkey and northwest Syria are grim.
The earthquake struck before dawn, when most people were in bed, asleep.
That factor will likely add to the rapidly increasing death toll, as will severe aftershocks.
The coming hours will be crucial as rescue workers race against time to locate survivors. Already Turkey has declared a state of emergency and help is being pledged from around the world.
The situation in northern Syria is especially concerning. The region has already suffered 12 years of civil war which has left many buildings damaged and weakened, and there are hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by fighting.
Getting aid into this contested part of Syria will be a challenge in itself.
There is a major aid hub nearby in Dubai, where warehouses are full of medical and humanitarian supplies ready to fly if access to Turkey and Syria can be negotiated.
Turkey, which sits on a fault line, has a history of earthquakes and therefore will have some expertise already on the ground, but this is already looking like a major disaster that will need all the international help available.
UK ‘ready to help’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK “stands ready to help in whatever way we can”.
He tweeted: “My thoughts are with the people of Türkiye and Syria this morning, particularly with those first responders working so valiantly to save those trapped by the earthquake.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also tweeted: “Tragic loss of life in the Türkiye and Syria earthquake.
“Our condolences go to the families of those who died and our thoughts are with the survivors.
“The UK stands ready to provide assistance.”
Dozens of governments and international organisations responded with offers of support.
The EU said more than 10 search and rescue teams had been mobilised along with emergency satellite mapping to support first responders on the ground.
Germany has said it could provide camps with emergency shelters and water treatment units and was already preparing relief supplies with emergency generators, tents and blankets.
Israel said it would help Syria, marking the first time it has ever sent troops to act publicly and officially in the country, as well as sending aid to Turkey.
Poland said it would send a rescue group of 76 firemen and eight rescue dogs, while India said two teams from its National Disaster Response Force comprising 100 personnel with specially trained dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the disaster area.
Pictures show devastation from 7.8 magnitude tremor
Why is the death toll so high, and will it be difficult to get aid to the right places?
Turkey’s deadly history of earthquakes
Turkey and the surrounding area have suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years with thousands of lives lost.
More than 1,300 people have died in the quake that hit in the early hours of this morning. Dozens of aftershocks have also been felt.
At 7.8-magnitude, it is the strongest earthquake in Turkey since the Erzincan quake in December 1939, which killed around 32,000 people.
The area sits on the Anatolian Plate, which borders two major faults – the North Anatolian fault lies from west to east in Turkey, while the East Anatolian fault is situated in the country’s south-eastern region.
Some of the deadliest earthquakes in the region have taken place in the past few decades.
30 October 2020 – A 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Aegean Sea with its epicentre near the Greek island of Samos. Turkey’s third-largest city Izmir was heavily affected, with 119 people killed in total and more than 1,050 injured.
24 January 2020 – More than 40 people were killed and more than 1,600 injured in a 6.7-magnitude earthquake in the eastern province of Elazig. Tremors were also felt in Syria, Lebanon and Iran.
23 October 2011 – More than 600 people were killed when a 7.2-magnitude quake struck the eastern cities of Van and Ecris. A second earthquake struck just around two weeks later which left around 40 people dead and hundreds more injured.
1 May 2003 – More than 160 people were killed, including 83 children in a collapsed school dormitory, in a 6.4-magnitude quake. About 1,000 people were injured in the disaster in the eastern city of Bingol.
12 November 1999 – In the north-western town of Ducze, nearly 1,000 people were killed by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
17 August 1999 – More than 17,000 people were killed in a quake that struck the western city of Izmit, around 55 miles southeast of Istanbul. Around half a million people were left homeless after the disaster.
Experts expect aftershocks to continue for days or weeks
Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at University College London, told Sky News Turkey and Syria have experienced “the worst kind of earthquake”.
“It’s a very shallow earthquake beneath a highly populated area, a very strong earthquake, and in a region where we can see the buildings just can’t withstand this level of shaking.”
Mr Hicks said there is a “small chance” there could be “stronger aftershocks” or even another earthquake “larger than the main shock”.
He also said there will be “tens of thousands” of aftershocks still occurring in the coming weeks but that number will “gradually decrease over time”.
Professor Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of earth sciences at UCL, said: “This a major earthquake that has clearly resulted in widespread devastation.
“Many of the buildings in the towns affected are simply not designed to cope with this level of strong shaking, and in Syria many structures have already been weakened by more than a decade of war.
“Sadly, I expect the death toll to rise significantly, and would not be at all surprised by a final death toll in the thousands.
“There have been dozens of significant aftershocks on the heels of the main quake, and these will continue for days, hampering rescue and relief efforts and potentially causing the collapse of already damaged buildings.”