ISTANBUL - President Tayyip Erdogan declared on Tuesday a three-month state of emergency covering Turkey's 10 southern provinces hit by devastating earthquakes, and called it a disaster zone in a move meant to bolster rescue efforts.

The move came as the death toll from Monday's two major earthquakes, which hit a wide area of Turkey and Syria, exceeded 5,000 and as rescuers raced against time to dig people out of the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Declaring a state of emergency permits the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

"We have decided to declare a state of emergency to ensure that operations are carried out rapidly," Erdogan said in his second speech since the first quake hit early on Monday.

He said the state of emergency would last three months - meaning it would end shortly before presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled on May 14. It could also be extended. Erdogan previously declared a nationwide state of emergency in July 2016 in the wake of a failed military coup.

Erdogan also said that 70 countries had offered help in search and rescue operations and that Turkey planned to open up hotels in the tourism hub of Antalya, to the west, to temporarily house people impacted by the quakes. He said the death toll in Turkey had risen to 3,549 people. (Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)