Turkish authorities have confirmed the deaths of 2,379 people after its southeastern region bordering Syria was rocked by major earthquakes.
A further 1,444 people are confirmed to have died in Syria.
The initial magnitude 7.8 tremor early on Monday brought down buildings as people slept and was followed by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hours later amid several aftershocks.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Monday’s twin temblors the “biggest disaster” since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, which killed about 33,000 people.
The first magnitude 7.7 quake, centred in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, brought down whole apartment blocks in several cities and piled more devastation on millions of Syrians displaced by years of war.
Freezing winter weather added to the plight of the many thousands injured or left homeless while hampering efforts to find survivors.
Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.
“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by phone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”
The first earthquake came before sunrise in harsh weather and was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake of magnitude 7.6 at noon, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
The second quake brought down more buildings and, like the first, was felt across the region, endangering rescuers struggling to pull casualties from the debris.
In addition to Kahramanmaras, the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Malatya, Adıyaman, Kilis, Hatay, Osmaniye and Bingol were hit by the quakes.
AFAD official Orhan Tatar said in a televised statement late on Monday more than 5,500 buildings collapsed.
More than 6,400 people were rescued from fallen structures across southeastern Turkey.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the region felt at least 145 aftershocks, adding three were stronger than magnitude 6.
The latest disaster is already the highest death toll from an earthquake in Turkey since 1999, when a temblor of similar magnitude devastated the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.
On the Syrian side, the areas struck are divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces.
Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of Syrian refugees from the civil war.
Nearly 1,300 people were killed in Syria, according to figures from the Damascus government and the White Helmets, rescue workers located in the northwestern region controlled by opposition forces.
Hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the White Helmets said in a statement.
El Mostafa Benlamlih, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, said infrastructure is seriously damaged across the region.
“Water [sources] have been damaged. We rely very much on water tanks. Many of them either need serious repair or need to be replaced,” he told Al Jazeera.
He added fuel is not available and some hospitals are damaged. “We need a lot of help here.” – Al Jazeera.
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