A major 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Turkey on Monday, the US Geological Survey said, levelling buildings across several cities and causing damage in neighbouring Syria.
The quake struck at 04:17am local time at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres, the US agency said, with a 6.7-magnitude aftershock striking 15 minutes later.
Turkey’s AFAD emergencies service centre put the first quake’s magnitude at 7.4. Turkish officials reported no immediate casualty figures, but the first images showed crumbled buildings and fires across several cities.
Casualty numbers are expected to appear shortly.
Images on Turkish television and social media showed rescuers digging through the rubble of levelled buildings in the city of Kahramanmaras and neighbouring Gaziantep.
“I convey my best wishes to all our citizens who were affected by the earthquake,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage.”
The earthquake’s timing meant that most people were still sleeping at home, raising the potential toll.
Flattened buildings, fires
Some images showed shocked people standing in the snow in their pyjamas, watching rescuers dig through the debris of damaged homes.
NTV television said buildings also crumbed in the cities of Adiyaman and Malatya.
A fire lit up the night sky in one image from Kahramanmaras, although its origin remained unclear.
CNN Turk television said the quake was also felt across parts of central Turkey and the capital Ankara.
Shockwaves across Mid-East
The tremors were felt in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus, according to AFP correspondents.
Syrian state television reported that a building near Latakia, on the west coast of Syria, had collapsed.
Pro-government media said several buildings had partially collapsed in Hama, central Syria, with civil defence and firefighters working to pull survivors out of the rubble.
Raed Ahmed, who heads Syria’s National Earthquake Centre, told pro-government radio that this was “historically, the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the centre”.
Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkey in decades.
That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul. Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.
A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people. And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1000.
Originally published as Turkey rocked by huge 7.8 magnitude earthquake
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