At least 50 people have been killed across Syria as buildings collapsed after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that had its epicentre in southeastern Turkey, state media and a local hospital said.
Forty-two people were killed in government-controlled parts of Syria, state media said, while a local hospital told AFP that eight others were killed in northern areas controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“Forty-two deaths and 200 injuries have been reported in Aleppo, Hama and Latakia as a result of the earthquake in a preliminary toll,” state news agency SANA said quoting a health ministry official.
Rescuers have been rushing to search for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings since the earthquake hit Syria at dawn.
AFP correspondents in northern Syria said terrified residents ran out of their homes after the ground shook.
SANA had reported earlier that the earthquake was felt from the western coast of Latakia to Damascus.
“This earthquake is the strongest since the National Earthquake Centre was founded in 1995,” Raed Ahmed, who heads the centre, told SANA.
In northern Syrian areas controlled by pro-Turkish factions, at least eight people were killed “in the regions of Azaz and al-Bab,” a source at a local hospital told AFP, adding that the number is likely to rise as search and rescue operations are ongoing.
In the neighbouring rebel-held Idlib region bordering Turkey, civil defence said there were “dozens of victims and hundreds of people injured and stuck under the rubble”.
“Our teams are in a state of emergency to rescue survivors,” the White Helmets rescue group said on Twitter.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey on Monday at 04:17 am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres (11 miles), the US Geological Survey said.
The tremors were felt in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus, according to AFP correspondents.