In the middle of the night, the earthquake struck. Images from TV and social media show shocked residents standing in their pajamas in the snow and following the rescue efforts.
At least 360 have so far been reported dead after what is the most powerful earthquake in southern Turkey and Syria in over 100 years.
Many buildings have collapsed. People are trapped in the ruins.
According to the American earthquake center USGS, the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8. The epicenter was at the small town of Pazarcik, north of Gaziantep. The city is the sixth largest in Turkey and has over two million inhabitants.
The disaster occurred a little after 02 o’clock local time. Ten minutes later there was an aftershock with a magnitude of 6.7. Then at least five more.
The death toll is feared to rise significantly in both countries.
Rescue workers and residents search through the collapsed buildings. In twisted steel beams and crushed cement. There is snow and freezing temperatures in the area.
Over two million people live in the area on the Turkish side.
In addition, several million people live in the earthquake-affected regions of Syria. Many of them are refugees.
– The conditions are catastrophic. Low temperatures and bad weather make the situation even worse.
The aid organization White Helmets reports this Twitter.
– The house swayed for a minute
Witnesses and authorities say that countless buildings collapsed. Both in Turkey and Syria.
Nilüfer Aslan and his family were on the 5th floor of a block of flats in the Turkish city of Adana when the earthquake struck.
– The house swayed back and forth for a minute, Aslan adds BBC.
– The only thing I thought was that we would at least die together.
In Osmaniye, for example, 34 collapsed buildings have been reported.
Images on TV and social media show shocked residents standing in their pajamas in the snow, watching rescue workers search through collapsed houses.
– We hope we will get through this disaster as soon as possible and with as little damage as possible.
This is what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan writes on Twitter. He adds that the highest priority is to rescue those trapped in the ruins.
The quake could be felt in a large area of Turkey, including in the capital Ankara. People in Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus and Israel noticed it too. This is reported by Reuters journalist Timour Azhari in Beirut. Even in Cairo it could be felt.
Many people poured into the streets of Beirut and Damascus when the tremors occurred.
1 out of 4Photo: AP/NTB
A number of videos and photos show how high-rise buildings collapsed.
Aid workers search for people in the ruins.
In Aleppo and in Hama, buildings collapsed, according to Syrian state media. In rebel-held parts of the country, houses were reported to have collapsed and people were trapped in the ruins.
The situation there is described as catastrophic. The Civil Defense asked people not to enter collapsed buildings, and to gather in open areas.
Turkey is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. In 1999, 18,000 people died when the country was hit by several earthquakes.
The earthquake’s center struck 23 kilometers east of the city of Durdagi in Gaziantep province, 24 kilometers underground. This is reported by the US Geological Survey.
Residents in the area were encouraged to leave their homes. The reason is the violent aftershocks.
A total of 66 major aftershocks have been measured. The largest aftershock was measured at 6.7.
– The situation is very serious, says the mayor of the city of Yesilyurt Mehmet Cinar to the Turkish online newspaper Hurriyat.
The city with 350,000 inhabitants is one of the many that have been hit hard.
– Our hospital and hotel were completely destroyed. We have received reports of ten houses with eight to 20 floors that have collapsed completely, says the mayor.
– We didn’t discover it because everything was dark.
He says that it is snowing in the area, and that the relief crews are at work.
– Everyone wants to get away as far as possible
In the affected cities, there is chaos and traffic jams. People try to escape in cars.
– Everyone sits in their cars and tries to drive to open areas as far away from buildings as possible.
This is what a witness in the city of Gaziantep tells Reuters.
– I have never experienced anything like this during the 40 years I have lived. We were shaken very violently three times, like a baby in a manger.
The loss figures increase almost from minute to minute.
The ten hardest hit cities in Turkey by the earthquake are Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis.