Turkey and Syria earthquake: follow latest updates
Holidaymakers are being urged to be cautious when traveling to Turkey following the two earthquakes that hit the south-east of the country, as well as neighboring Syria, on Monday.
Turkey is one of the most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers, with increased interest this year due to the strength of the pound against the Turkish lira. However, due to the level of destruction and the death toll surpassing 22,000, the UK Foreign Office has warned holidaymakers currently in Turkey and those planning to visit over the February school half-term to “follow the information and advice from local authorities/your tour operator.”
He has urged travelers to “avoid the immediate vicinity” of the incident. This advice applies to the Turkish provinces of Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Malatya, Diyarbakır, Kilis, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman, Hatay, Osmaniye and Adana.
On Tuesday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency covering these 10 southern provinces, calling the area a disaster zone. The move came as the death toll continued to rise, with rescuers racing against time to dig people out of the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Currently, no flights from UK airports to Turkey have been canceled as a result of the earthquakes. However, airports in the south-east of Turkey have closed, including Adana Şakirpaşa, Hatay and Gaziantep Oğuzeli.
Travel to Turkey’s main cities, Ankara and Istanbul – in the west of the country and hundreds of miles from the earthquake zone – as well as to popular holidays areas like the Aegean coast, is operating as normal.
The possibility of further aftershocks remains a concern. It is being reported that some areas which had previously been off-limits due to their proximity to war-torn Syria, but had risen in popularity in recent years, have largely been destroyed, including parts of the cities of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa (usually called Urfa).
An initial survey carried out by Unesco found that several buildings at the world heritage site of Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape had collapsed. The ancient Gaziantep Castle, one of the Turkish city’s most famous landmarks, was severely damaged by the earthquake. Other sites on the world heritage list not far from the epicentre, such as Göbekli Tepe, Nemrut Dağ and Tell of Arslantepe, could also be affected.
Jeremy Seal, who runs tours to the country and last visited the region in May 2022, recently wrote in his blog: “I do not know what still stands of these cities – of their hotels, mosques and museums, of Gobekli Tepe’s 10,000-year-old megaliths and other wonders.
“Nor should I care – at least not until the work to rescue the trapped and injured is completed … For now I find myself thinking of all the wonderful people who have fed, housed, entertained and otherwise served us in the course of numerous visits to the region over the years. My heart goes out to them, to their families, friends and neighbours, knowing that all I can do is reach into my pocket.”
Last year British nationals made more than 3.3m visits to Turkey, but this time of year is considered off-season.
Seal said he was still planning to run a winter tour, departing this Sunday, precisely because the crowds are absent and because the “Turkish winter can be wonderful”.
“In the end, there are hoteliers and restaurants and drivers and others who need to make a living, and I’m not sure they would thank us for canceling out of some notion of respect,” added Seal.