More than 500 people were killed and thousands injured on Monday, after a major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck central Turkey and northwest Syria, collapsing buildings and triggering searches for survivors in the rubble.
The quake, which hit in the early darkness of a winter morning, was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon. Tremors were also felt in the Turkish capital of Ankara, 460 km (286 miles) northwest of the epicentre, and in Cyprus, where police reported no damage.
“We were shaken like a cradle,” said a woman with a broken arm and wounds on her face, speaking in an ambulance near the wreckage of a seven-storey block where she had lived in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said 284 people were killed and 2,323 injured, as authorities scrambled rescue teams and supply aircraft for the affected area, while declaring a “level 4 alarm” that calls for international assistance.
In Syria, already devastated by more than 11 years of civil war, a government health official said more than 237 people had been killed and about 600 injured, most in the provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia, where numerous buildings tumbled down.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.8 quake struck at a depth of 17.9 km. It reported a series of earthquakes, one of 6.7 magnitude.
It was Turkey’s most severe quake since 1999, when one of similar magnitude devastated Izmit and the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.
Monday’s tremor lasted about a minute and shattered windows, according to witness in Diyarbakir, 350 km (218 miles)to the east, where a security official said at least 17 buildings collapsed.
Kerem Kinik, the chief of the Turkish Red Crescent relief agency, issued an appeal for blood donations.