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Deputy President Fuat Oktay said that at least 284 people were killed and 2323 others were injured in 10 provinces due to a strong earthquake in the south of Turkey.
Oktay said at a press conference that a total of 1,710 buildings collapsed after the earthquake.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) said the 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck at 4:17 a.m. (0117 Dushanbe time) and was centered in Pazarchik district in Turkey’s southern Kahramanmaras province. The earthquake occurred at a depth of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).
AFAD said in a statement that 78 aftershocks occurred after the earthquake.
The provinces of Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmania, Hatay and Kilis were severely affected by the earthquake.
“Our president (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) has been monitoring and managing the event since the earthquake,” Oktay said.
Erdogan is currently at the AFAD office in Ankara to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.
Oktay added that Hatay airport is currently closed for flights and said that they have also closed Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep for civil flights.
Oktay said: “To date, 102 mobile bases have been sent to earthquake areas.
He also called on all organizations, institutions and media organizations to rely on official statements to avoid contamination of information.
The Vice President also said that all schools in these 10 provinces are closed for a week.
Meanwhile, National Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said schools in Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Adana, Usmania and Kilis provinces will be closed for a week.
“Starting today, we will take a two-week break from education in the regions of Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Adiyaman and Malatya,” said Ozer.
Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said that all national sporting events held in Turkey have been suspended until further notice.
The earthquake was also felt in neighboring countries, including Lebanon and Syria.
Rescue teams on alert
Erdoğan wished good luck to the citizens who were affected by the earthquake. He added that AFAD and other units are “on alert”.
The president noted that rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the earthquake-affected areas.
“The Ministry of Interior and our Ministry of Health, AFAD, governor of the provinces and all other institutions have started their work quickly.
“We are also coordinating our work after the earthquake. We hope that together we will overcome this natural disaster as soon as possible and with the least damage and continue our work.”
AFAD said in a statement that Turkey has issued a level 4 alert, which includes a call for international assistance.
AFAD also said following talks with the Turkish Foreign Ministry that international assistance has been called for search and rescue through the ERCC (Emergency Response Coordination Centre).
“Offers of assistance have been received from many countries, particularly the Netherlands, Azerbaijan and Great Britain,” it added.
Meanwhile, medical personnel assigned from the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Health flew to the region in two military air ambulances from Ankara.
In addition to rescue teams, blankets and food, psychological support teams were also sent to the region.
Turkey is establishing an “air aid corridor”.
After the earthquake, an “air corridor” was established by the Turkish Armed Forces to transport search and rescue teams to the region.
Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar said: “We have mobilized our planes to send medical teams, search and rescue teams and their vehicles to the earthquake zone. We have maximized the readiness of our planes to provide the necessary transport services.”
A large number of transport aircraft, including an A-400M of the Turkish Armed Forces, began sending search and rescue teams and vehicles to the area. Air ambulances also participate in the “corridor of air assistance”, Akar added.
“As the Turkish Armed Forces, we continue our efforts to determine the damage and casualties. Unfortunately, we have three martyrs. There are also injured.”
Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca said that a sufficient number of teams from 81 regions are on duty in the disaster areas and continue to provide search, rescue and health services.
“Our air and ground ambulances are also serving the region. We are now coordinating from Hatay, one of the provinces affected by the earthquake,” Koca said on Twitter.