Turkey earthquake: Fears death toll could pass 10,000 as another quake hits

Carried alive from the rubble  (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Carried alive from the rubble (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A baby was rescued from a collapsed building in Turkey on Tuesday as a third quake hit the country and the death toll passed 6,300.

Six-month-old Ayse Vera and his mother, Hülya Yılmaz, 30, had been trapped for 29 hours in the rubble of a block in Hatay, the epicentre of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria in the early hours of Monday morning.

A third smaller shock was reported on Tuesday in central Turkey. As an international aid effort, including UK volunteers, struggled into action, there were fears that the number of dead could pass 10,000.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 provinces.

Three Brits are among the missing as rescuers race against time to save as many as possible.

The two countries face a humanitarian disaster, with rescuers hampered by the inability to reach affected areas due to destroyed mountain roads and people fleeing ruined towns.

In Syria, conditions were worsened by a decade of civil war having wrecked the country’s infrastructure and caused a refugee crisis.

The number of people affected across Turkey and Syria following two huge earthquakes could be 23 million or higher, according to preliminary assessments by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the impact of the quakes was “on a scale that we have not seen for quite some time”. The UK is sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and specially trained dogs, to the region.


David Wightwick, of UK-Med, was today boarding a flight to Turkey, part of an advance party of six people includes surgeons, paramedics, emergency medical staff and logistics staff. More NHS staff are expected to follow.

The quake, which was centred on Turkey’s south-eastern province of Kahramanmaras, was felt as far away as Cairo and Beirut in Lebanon. Thousands of buildings, including a hospital, collapsed. Many residents would have been sleeping when the quake struck. Patients and newborn babies were among those evacuated.

“It was like the apocalypse,” said Abdul Salam al-Mahmoud, a Syrian in the northern town of Atareb. “It’s bitterly cold and there’s heavy rain, and people need saving.”

In Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey, a woman speaking next to the wreckage of the seven-storey block said: “We were shaken like a cradle. There were nine of us at home. Two sons of mine are still in the rubble. I’m waiting for them.”

Hatay, which borders north-west Syria, was the worst-hit province in Turkey with at least 872 people killed. Residents complained of an inadequate emergency response. Rescue workers said they had struggled to source equipment. Desperate screams for help could be heard from those trapped in collapsed buildings. “They’re making noises but nobody is coming,” one volunteer, Deniz, said, pointing to a destroyed building in which his mother and father were stuck.

“They’re calling out. They’re saying, ‘Save us,’ but we can’t save them. How are we going to save them? There has been nobody since the morning.”

Rescue teams in the province complained about a lack of equipment, while people on the road stopped cars and asked for any tools.

The Turkish government declared a “level 4 alarm” after the quake struck, calling for international assistance, but has not declared a state of emergency that would lead to mass mobilisation of the military. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise.

“Hopefully, we will leave these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a nation.”

The World Health Organisation warned the toll could hit 20,000, and that 23 million people could be affected.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel were on the ground. But with such a wide area affected and nearly 6,000 buildings confirmed to have collapsed in Turkey alone, rescue efforts were spread thin. About 200 aftershocks made the search perilous. US President Joe Biden called Mr Erdogan to offer assistance. The White House said it was sending search teams.