A 7.8 magnitude quake has knocked down multiple buildings in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared.
At least five deaths were reported initially in Turkey.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was felt in several provinces.
It was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.
A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reported that a shopping mall in the city collapsed. The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the wider region, according to BBC News.
In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble.
The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency, AFAD, said the quake measured 7.4 and was centered in the town of Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province.
The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
The earthquake was also felt in Lebanon and Syria.
Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.
In Syria’s rebel-held northwest that borders Turkey, several buildings collapsed, according to the opposition’s Syrian civil Defense.
In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.
The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from their beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.
Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.
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