At 7.8 magnitude earthquake has struck an area of southeast Turkeywith tourists urged by the Foreign Office (FCDO) to “avoid the immediate vicinity” of the incident.
The FCDO updated its advice to UK travelers at 3am on Monday, following the tragic incident in the early hours.
The initial 7.8 earthquake struck the southeastern city of Gaziantep at 4.17am local time. Turkey’s emergency authorities have since reported a second, 7.5 magnitude earthquake in a different southeast location at 1.24pm local time.
At the time of writing, the combined death toll of the incident in Syria and Turkey stands at more than 2,300.
Are holidays to Turkey in the coming weeks affected, and are airlines still operating flights?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Which parts of Turkey are affected?
The city of Gaziantep and its surrounding provinces were hardest hit by the initial earthquake. The first quake was felt at 4.17am local time, with one resident telling CNN that “it felt like it would never be over”.
The city is in the southeast of the country, close to the Syrian border and a sizeable distance from Turkey’s tourism hubs. It lies 823km east of the southern port of Antalya and 1,139km southeast of the port of Istanbul.
The 7.8 magnitude quake is the strongest to hit Turkey in more than eight decades; the country saw a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in August 1999, but the last recorded 7.8 incident was in December 1939.
One concern for tourists or visitors to the area is aftershocks, which have been felt since the initial quake.
Later on Monday, Turkey’s AFAP emergency authority reported a second quake in the town of Ekinozu, this time at a magnitude of 7.5. The town is 842km east of Antalya, and 196km north of Gaziantep.
Local emergency services are still working to rescue locals from the rubble.
Tremors from the initial quake were felt as far away as Cyprus (415km from Gaziantep), Lebanon and Israel.
Holidaymaker Julia Miernik tweeted: “What just happened? 3.20am and my whole hotel is floating, bed is shaking on the ground and everybody is screaming. Then I see the news in #Turkey First day on my holidays and #earthquake?” She later told followers she was staying in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The ancient historic site of Gaziantep Castle (circa 656 AD), has also been badly damaged by the shock.
Have airlines canceled flights to Turkey?
At present, no airlines serving the UK have announced cancellations to their flights in relation to the natural disaster.
However, Turkey’s Adana Airport has been closed until further notice, the Demiroren news agency reported.
There are no flights from the UK into Adana, which is 220km west of Gazientep, though it is served by domestic flights from tourism hubs Istanbul and Bodrum.
Crisis24 reported that Gazientep Airport, Hatay Airport and the seaport of Ceyhan have also been closed and operations suspended in the wake of the natural disaster.
“Currently, only planes carrying aid and rescue teams are allowed to land and take off from the two airports,” reported Turkey-based publication the Daily Sabah. “Hatay Airport, whose runway was damaged because of the earthquake, was closed for all flights.”
Hugh Fraser, the founder of Turkey specialist Corinthian Travel, told The Independent: “Southeastern Turkey and the area around Gaziantep have many spectacular attractions, and are noted for their regional cuisine, but has traditionally been the preserve of the second or third-time cultural visitors to Turkey.
“The earthquake is a human tragedy but is unlikely to have much impact on Turkey’s major centers of tourism: Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the Aegean Coast – all of which are located hundreds of miles away to the west.”
The Independent has contacted other airlines and tour operators serving Turkey for further comment.
What has the Foreign Office said?
An update to the FCDO’s Turkey page in the early hours of Monday reads: “A 7.8 earthquake hit Gaziantep and neighboring provinces in the south east of Turkey on 6 February 2023.
“There have been several strong after-shocks. You should avoid the immediate vicinity and follow the advice of the local authorities.”
It advises all but essential travel to “areas within 10km of the border with Syria”.
In its general advice on Turkey, the FCDO says: “Many parts of Turkey are subject to earthquakes. You should familiarize yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow the advice of the local authorities.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “My thoughts are with the people of Türkiye and Syria this morning, particularly with those first responders working so valiantly to save those trapped by the earthquake. The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”
There have been 18 earthquakes in the country since the year 2000.
What have the Turkish authorities said?
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said there had been “heavy destruction” in cities in the area, reporting that nearly 3,000 buildings had been destroyed.
“We hope that we will overcome this disaster together as soon as possible,” said Mr Erdoğan in a televised address.
The Independent has approached Turkey’s tourism board for comment.