A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southeastern Turkey and Syria on Monday, killing scores of people as per early reports and bringing down high-rise buildings.
Turkey Calls for International Help
Turkish authorities issued a "level 4 alarm" after the devastating earthquake, calling for international assistance. Rescue teams have been working on the sites of building collapse, working through rubble to pull people out, but a clear picture of the extent of damage and loss of lives has not yet emerged.
The US Geological Survey said the tremor hit the region at 04:17 am local time at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres (11 miles). A magnitude 6.7 aftershock was felt 15 minutes after the first earthquake.
Tremor Felt in Lebanon and Cyprus
The earthquake was felt in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus. The more serious damage from the quake was reported from across southern and central Turkey, including capital Ankara.
A magnitude 7.4 earthquake had killed more than 17,000 people in the Turkish region of Duzce in 1999.
As per initial count of the dead reported by the AFP news agency, at least 53 people have died in Turkey, while more than 40 were killed in the Syrian regions where the government has control.
According to German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), the earthquake struck near the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.
"I have never felt anything like it in the 40 years I've lived ... Everybody is sitting in their cars, or trying to drive to open spaces away from buildings ... I imagine not a single person in Gaziantep is in their homes now," a resident of the Turkish city of Gaziantep said, according to Reuters.
The EMSC monitoring service said it was closely monitoring if there is a tsunami risk following the quake.
Syrian media said dozens of buildings collapsed in the province of Aleppo. Residents of Damascus, and Lebanese capital of Beirut ran out of their homes immediately after the quake. The earthquake was so powerful that it was felt across Ankara, which is 460 km away from the epicentre.