Photo of Turkish man holding hand of dead daughter underlines earthquake despair

<span>Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Videos and photographs of the two earthquakes that have devastated southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing at least 6,000 people, show rescuers digging with their hands, apartment blocks concertinaing to the ground in seconds, and the shaking apart of a castle that had stood for almost two millennia.

But few images depict the agony quite as plainly as a photograph from the Turkish region of Kahramanmaraş, in which a father holds the hand of his dead teenage daughter as rescuers and civilians pick through the flattened building where she died on Monday.

Sitting hunched in the rubble, Mesut Hancer keeps hold of 15-year-old Irmak as she lies on her bed beneath the slabs of concrete, smashed windows and broken bricks that were once apartments. Close to the father and daughter, a man with a sledgehammer tries to smash his way through the ruins.

The epicentre of the first earthquake was the Pazarcık district of Kahramanmaraş, which lies in south-east Turkey. The initial, 7.8-magnitude earthquake was followed, hours later, by a second quake that measured 7.7 magnitude.

Elsewhere in Kahramanmaraş province, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble. One lay on a stretcher on the snowy ground. Rescuers quieted the throngs of people trying to help so they could hear survivors and find them.

On the other side of the border, the Associated Press described seeing a Syrian man holding a dead girl in his arms as he walked away from the debris of a collapsed two-storey building.

He and a woman set the girl on the floor under covering to protect her from the rain, wrapping her in a large blanket before looking back to the building. According to Agence France-Presse, a newborn baby was pulled alive from the rubble of a home in northern Syria after relatives found her still tied by her umbilical cord to her mother, who died in Monday’s quake.

Rescue efforts are being hampered by dozens of continuing aftershocks, freezing winter weather and the damage caused to roads leading in and out of the affected areas.

On Tuesday evening, the Turkish government said 4,500 people had been killed in the quake, with another 26,000 injured. The number of confirmed deaths on the Syrian side of the border – where the disaster has exacerbated the destruction wrought by more than 11 years of civil war – stood at at least 1,700 bringing the death toll in both countries to more than 6,200. Turkey’s disaster management agency said it had 11,342 reports of collapsed buildings, of which 5,775 had been confirmed.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declared the 10 provinces affected by the earthquakes disaster zones, imposing a state of emergency in the region for three months.