A Cork school group was in "shock" to learn they narrowly missed the disaster in Malatya, Turkey, where their partner school is located.

"Our staff and students in Turkey are all fine,” Coláiste Éamann Rís - Cork City said in a social media post on Monday after devastating earthquakes struck in Turkey and Syria.

The Irish group of eight people was set to travel from Istanbul to Malatya on Sunday night but decided last minute to spend the night in Istanbul.

Malatya, roughly 1,100 km from Istanbul, was badly impacted by Monday's earthquakes and featured in a live news report that showed when the second quake struck:

A live television broadcast captured the moment two consecutive aftershocks of a powerful earthquake hit Malatya in Turkey https://t.co/hQPpWpvuFp pic.twitter.com/msclTNrkPq

— Reuters (@Reuters) February 6, 2023

Aaron Wolfe, the principal of Coláiste Éamann Rís, spoke to RTE Radio on Monday from Istanbul: "We're part of an Erasmus project and we're visiting schools across the world looking at how they welcome refugees into the education system.

"We were due to be in Malatya today with our partner school. In fact, we were meant to go there last night, [but] we decided our flight from Dublin to Istanbul - we were cutting it too fine to make the flight to Malatya.

"So we decided to stay one night in Istanbul and thank god we did because if we didn't, we would have been there, and it doesn't bear thinking about."

Wolfe said he and the group "were in shock" when they heard the news.

"The school we were going to and the staff and the students that we were visiting and that we built up relationships with have been devastated.

"One of the students sent us a text saying 'my town has literally disappeared.'

"It's horrendous, it really is."

Wolfe separately told Echo Live that flights home are "too expensive," so the group haggled to get a hotel room for seven nights at a cost of €2,500.

“There are so many people worse off than us," he acknowledged. "It is heartbreaking to see what the other school has lost."

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) said on Monday that one 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit early on Monday morning, followed by a separate 7.6-magnitude earthquake that afternoon. 

On Monday evening, AP reported the death toll had risen to 3,400.

Amidst a global outpouring of support, Ireland has pledged €2 million in emergency assistance to the people of Turkey and Syria.