At least 912 people were killed and 5,385 others injured in 10 provinces after a strong earthquake jolted southern Türkiye on Monday morning, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Describing the earthquake as the "biggest disaster" since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, Erdogan said: "So far, 912 citizens have lost their lives and 5,385 else wounded."
Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said the 7.7 magnitude quake struck at 4.17 a.m. (0117GMT) and was centered in the Pazarcik district in Türkiye’s southern province of Kahramanmaras. The quake occurred at a depth of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).
AFAD said in a statement that 78 aftershocks occurred following the earthquake.
Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Adiyaman, Malatya, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis provinces are heavily affected by the quake.
The president talked to the mayors of Adana, Osmaniye, Hatay, and Kilis on the phone and received information about the search and rescue activities, according to the Turkish presidency.
"The number of people rescued from the rubbles has reached 2,470. The number of buildings that collapsed is 2,818," Erdogan said.
Vice President Fuat Oktay said at a news conference that Erdogan has been following and managing the event since the moment of the earthquake.
Erdogan is currently at the AFAD office in the capital Ankara to coordinate the rescue and relief works.
Oktay added that Hatay Airport is currently closed to flights, saying they have also closed Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep to civil flights.
"102 mobile base stations have been sent to the earthquake zones so far," Oktay said.
He also called on all media organizations, institutions, and organizations to rely on official statements in order not to cause information pollution.
The vice president also said all schools in these 10 provinces are closed for a week.
Meanwhile, National Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said schools in Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Adana, Osmaniye, and Kilis provinces will be closed for one week.
"As of today, we are taking a two-week break from education in Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Adiyaman, and Malatya provinces," Ozer added.
Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said all national sports organizations to be held in Türkiye have been suspended until further notice.
The earthquake was also felt in several countries in the region, including Lebanon and Syria.
Rescue teams on alert
Erdogan conveyed get well wishes to citizens affected by the earthquake. He added that AFAD and other units are “on alert.”
The president noted that rescue teams were immediately dispatched to areas affected by the earthquake.
"Our Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health, AFAD, provincial governorships, and all other institutions started their work rapidly.
"We are also coordinating our work after the earthquake. We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage, and we continue our work," he said.
Türkiye issued a level-4 alarm, which includes a call for international aid, the AFAD said in the statement.
Following a discussion with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, AFAD also said international assistance was called for the search and rescue through the ERCC (Emergency Response Coordination Centre).
"Assistance offers were received from many countries, especially the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, and the UK," it added.
Meanwhile, the health personnel assigned from the National Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry departed from Ankara to the region with two military ambulance planes.
Besides rescue teams, blankets, and food, psychological support teams were also sent to the region.
Türkiye sets up 'air aid corridor'
After the earthquake, an "air aid corridor" was created by the Turkish Armed Forces to deliver search and rescue teams to the region.
"We 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 aircraft to provide the necessary transportation service," National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
A large number of transport aircraft, including an A-400M of the Turkish Armed Forces, began to dispatch search and rescue teams and vehicles to the region. Ambulance planes also take part in the "air aid corridor," Akar added.
"As Turkish Armed Forces, we continue our efforts to determine damage and casualties. Unfortunately, we have three martyrs. There are also injured ones," he said.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said a sufficient number of teams from 81 provinces are on duty in disaster areas and continue their search and rescue and health services.
"Our air and land ambulances are also in service in the region. We are currently carrying out the coordination from Hatay, one of the provinces affected by the earthquake disaster," Koca said on Twitter.
After the earthquake, condolences pour in from around the world, voicing solidarity with Türkiye.
*Seda Sevencan and Enes Calli contributed to this story.