More than 5,000 people have been killed in the wake of a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria.
In addition to the fatalities, hundreds have been wounded.
The death toll is expected to rise as ongoing rescue teams continue comb through the rubble of affected cities and towns.
Then a second earthquake struck in south-eastern Turkey on Monday, measuring at 7.5 magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey.
The initial tremor caused buildings to collapse and set off a frantic effort to locate survivors among the debris in urban and rural areas both sides of the border.
As the early morning quake woke inhabitants on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night descended, and the ground continued to shake from strong aftershocks. People quickly hurried outside.
The quake was felt as far away as Cairo, and upto 20 aftershocks followed later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.
Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets emergency organisation in opposition areas, said “whole neighbourhoods were collapsed in some areas.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake. “We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.
In Turkey, officials appealed to citizens not to travel in the earthquake-affected regions, as this was creating traffic backups which hindered the progress of emergency teams.
Mosques in the vicinity were opened up to provide shelter to those who could not return to their damaged homes, as temperatures dropped to near-freezing levels.
In Diyarbakir, the rescue teams requested silence as they attempted to hear for any survivors trapped beneath the ruins of an eleven-storey building.
Eventually, they managed to retrieve one man, carried him on a stretcher, surrounded by a massive crowd of hundreds of people anxiously observing the rescue operations.
The sight of a grey-haired woman crying loudly was enough to break the hearts of those present, and a rescue worker donning a white helmet tried to bring comfort to a young girl who was being embraced by two friends.
Entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” by the Syrian Civil Defence in northwest Syria.
In 1999, a powerful earthquake struck northwest Turkey, resulting in 18,000 deaths. This region is particularly vulnerable to seismic activity due to its location on top of major fault lines.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.
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