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Severe earthquakes kill more than 4000, flatten buildings in Turkey, Syria

A pair of huge earthquakes have struck in Turkey, leaving more than 4,000 people dead and unknown numbers injured or displaced. The first quake, near Gaziantep close to the Syrian border, measured 7.8 in magnitude and was felt as far away as the UK. The second occurred nine hours later, on what appears to be an intersecting fault, registering a magnitude of 7.5. Turkey is considered to be world's most active earthquake zones. Take a look at the effects of the earthquakes

Pictures: Deutsche Welle

Adding to the devastation, some 3,450 buildings have collapsed, according to the Turkish government. Many of the modern buildings have failed in a “pancake mode” of structural collapse. The earthquake caused widespread damage across Turkey's southern provinces. 

Earthquakes are common in Turkey, which sits in a very seismically active region where three tectonic plates constantly grind against one another beneath Earth’s surface. Historical records of earthquakes in the region go back at least 2,000 years, to a quake in 17 CE that levelled a dozen towns. The recent earthquakes are thus not a surprise. Despite this well-known seismic hazard, the region contains a lot of vulnerable infrastructure.

According to early reports a large number of buildings have been destroyed in provinces in southern Turkey. Turkey's president said that more than 2,800 buildings had collapsed in a situation update. Syria's state media also reported that some buildings had collapsed in Aleppo and the central city of Hama. Tremors were also felt in Damascus. 

Aerial footage shows the devastation caused by the earthquakes in Turkey. Several multi-storey buildings collapsed leaving several dead and many stuck inside. The head of Syria's National Earthquake Center, Raed Ahmed, told local media that this was "historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the center." The White Helmets rescue organization said buildings also collapsed in the rebel-held areas of northwestern Syria, adding that the situation was "disastrous." 

Civilians in parts of southern Turkey were forced out of their homes into the snow. Cultural treasures were also destroyed in the earthquake. In the Turkish province of Maltaya, the famous 13th-century Yeni Mosque was severely damaged. A winter storm is further complicating rescue work in the region. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said early on Monday that 45 nations had already offered assistance with search and rescue efforts. Turkey's military has established an air corridor to enable search and rescue teams to reach disaster zones as quickly as possible. 

Hours after the announcement made by the Prime Minister's Office, India has dispatched the first batch of earthquake relief material to Turkiye aboard an Indian Air Force aircraft. The shipment consisted of an expert National Disaster Response Force search and rescue team, including both male and female personnel, highly-skilled dog squads, an array of medical supplies, advanced drilling equipment, and other crucial tools required for the aid efforts.

Already scarred by war, damage to Aleppo in Syria was immense after the quake around dawn. Poor infrastructure and structural damage linked to Syria's long-running civil war is likely to exacerbate damages caused and risks in the area. Syria's government-controlled Aleppo, which was badly hit by the devastating Monday earthquake, is not equipped to deal with the aftermath, with most helpers working without proper training. The White Helmets had said that the earthquake killed at least 380 people in the opposition-held northwest Syria. 

The White Helmets, founded during the Syrian civil war, are participating in recovery efforts in rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria. These two men are searching for survivors in Zardana. Rescue workers have been deployed in Turkey and Syria to pull survivors from the rubble. Residents have also been helping search for survivors. Heavy snowfall was hampering rescue efforts in some parts with roads covered in ice and snow.

Members of NDRF Search and Rescue Teams along with relief material and specially trained dog squads aboard the IAF's aircraft as they leave for earthquake-hit Turkey. India's Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) capabilities in action. The 1st batch of earthquake relief material leaves for Turkiye, along with NDRF Search and Rescue Teams, specially trained dog squads, medical supplies, drilling machines and other necessary equipment, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs tweeted. 

Turkey's disaster agency, AFAD, said nearly 9,698 search and rescue personnel had been deployed to help search for survivors. On top of other emergency supplies, the agency was also handing out thousands of tents, blankets, and beds to help the survivors cope with the frigid weather.

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