Strong earthquake knocks down buildings in Turkey and Syria: a significant number of victims and injured are reported

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A powerful earthquake struck southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, killing more than 500 people as they slept and trapping many more.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8-magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9 km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that the death toll in Turkey has now risen to 284.

More than 230 people have been killed in Syria, according to state media.

The Syrian Ministry of Health reported that people died in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus.

There are fears that the death toll will rise sharply in the coming hours.

Many buildings have been destroyed, and rescue teams have been directed to search for survivors under the huge piles of debris.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu said that 10 cities were affected: Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis.

At least 23 people were killed in Malatya province, northeast of Gaziantep, local officials said. Şanlıurfa, in the east, recorded 17 deaths. More deaths were reported in Diyarbakır and Osmaniye.

At least 2,323 people were injured in Turkey and 639 in Syria.

A Turkish BBC correspondent in Diyarbakir reported that a shopping center had collapsed in the city.

Tremors were also felt in Lebanon and Cyprus.

“I was writing something and suddenly the whole building started shaking and I didn’t know what to feel,” Mohamad El-Chamaa, a student from the Lebanese capital Beirut, told the BBC.

“I was right next to the window, so I was just scared that they might crash. It went on for four or five minutes, and it was pretty terrifying. It was heartbreaking,” he said.

Rushdie Abaluf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said the house he lived in shook for about 45 seconds.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the earthquake at 7.4 points. They said a second aftershock hit the region a few minutes later.

Turkey is located in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world.

In 1999, more than 17,000 people died as a result of a powerful earthquake in the northwest of the country.

Rescue workers inspect a destroyed house in Diyarbakır, Turkey.  Photo: February 6, 2023
image captionIn Diyarbakir, north-east of Gaziantep, a search is underway for people trapped in damaged buildings
Wrecked cars under a destroyed building in Malatya, Turkey.  Photo: February 6, 2023
image captionIn Malatya, also north-east of Gaziantep, cars were crushed by collapsed buildings
People search for survivors after a building collapsed in Hama, Syria.  Photo: February 6, 2023

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