Over 9,000 killed as powerful earthquakes hit southern Türkiye

President Erdogan visits affected regions, says state working 'with all its means' to help the victims

Diyar Guldogan and Merve Aydogan  | 08.02.2023 - Update : 09.02.2023
Over 9,000 killed as powerful earthquakes hit southern Türkiye


At least 9,057 people were and 52,979 others injured after two strong earthquakes jolted southern Türkiye on Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday as he visited the affected regions.

Inspecting rescue and relief efforts, Erdogan said a total of 6,444 buildings were destroyed in the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 Kahramanmaras-centered quakes that struck 10 provinces, affecting 13 million people.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the strong tremors that hit Türkiye in the space of fewer than 10 hours.

Visiting Hatay province, which is one of the worst quake-hit areas, Erdogan pledged to take all necessary steps to prevent the suffering of the earthquake victims.

"As we speak, 21,200 personnel, including soldiers, gendarmerie, and police, are taking part in rescue efforts in Hatay," the president said.

The Turkish president said at least 60,000 accredited volunteers, including those from NGOs and foreign teams, are involved in earthquake search and rescue efforts.

Türkiye has mobilized all the resources for post-quake efforts, Erdogan said in an earlier visit to Kahramanmaras, adding: "The state is working with municipalities, especially with the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), with all its means."

According to AFAD, more than 98,150 searches and rescue personnel are currently conducting operations in the field.

"As a result of the negotiations with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, 5,309 personnel coming from other countries for help were dispatched to the disaster area," it added.

Besides rescue teams, blankets, tents, food, and psychological support teams were also sent to the affected areas.

A total of 70,818 family tents were set up to shelter survivors, AFAD added.

It said that 5,514 vehicles, including excavators, tractors, and dozers, were also sent to the disaster area.

In a press briefing, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total number of personnel on the ground, including those from security forces, Red Crescent and other NGOs, volunteers as well as health teams and ministries, is 103,800.

Oktay said temporary shelters with a capacity of nearly 1.2 million have been established in the affected areas.

On energy-related malfunctions, the Turkish vice president said the delivery of natural gas to the disaster area will begin in a controlled manner.

For his part, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Cilvegozu border gate in Türkiye’s southern Hatay province is open and operating for aid to be passed into Syria.

"We are working to open two additional border gates (into Syria). This is not a political matter but rather a humanitarian one," he said, adding that Türkiye is providing necessary support for aid to reach Syria.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 77 field hospitals were set up in the 10 provinces.

"We can also perform surgical operations in some of these hospitals where emergency health services are provided. Our earthquake victims whose health conditions are risky are transferred to hospitals in the region by helicopter after the first response," Koca said on Twitter.

Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum warned that aftershocks are still continuing. "Therefore, I would like to underline that the sensitivity regarding damaged buildings still continues," he said.

Dormitories, sports halls, youth centers, and youth camps in 10 provinces are serving quake victims with meals and are providing them shelter, Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the priority now is to save people who are trapped under the rubble. "After that, the judicial process will follow. All those who had negligence and fault will be held accountable," he pledged.

State of emergency declared

For search and rescue operations to be carried out rapidly, Türkiye on Tuesday announced a state of emergency for three months in 10 provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa.

"We are facing one of the biggest disasters not only of the history of the Republic of Türkiye but also of our geography and the world," Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Türkiye is observing a seven-day national mourning after the devastating quakes.

All national sports events in the country have been suspended until further notice. Schools nationwide will be closed until Feb. 13, while education in the affected provinces is suspended until Feb. 20.

Condolences poured in from around the world expressing solidarity with Türkiye, with many countries sending rescue teams and aid.

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 large number of transport aircraft, including A-400Ms, carried search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes are also using the air aid corridor.

Nearly 17,000 Turkish soldiers also rushed to the aid of people in the field, the National Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Rescue and relief personnel and materials were dispatched to the region from Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir with 122 aircraft, AFAD said.

In addition, the flights of two Akinci drones that were used to coordinate work in disaster areas continue.

A total of 10 ships were also assigned to the region for personnel and material shipment, and for evacuation.

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