Ankara/Damascus: More than 600 people were killed and over 3,320 others injured in Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck a wide area near the two countries’ border, according to authorities.
Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said the death toll had now risen to 284, while 2,323 people were reportedly injured, Xinhua news agency reported.
He also said that more than 1,700 buildings were damaged and at least 78 successive earthquakes were recorded following the initial temblor with a maximum magnitude of 6.6.
In Syria, more than 380 people lost their lives and nearly 1,000 others were injured.
The powerful quake that occurred at 4.17 a.m. at a depth of 17.9 km near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, was felt in Lebanon and Cyprus as well.
The epicentre of the quake was in the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras province.
According to Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleymon Soylu, 10 cities were the worst-affected — Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis.
In Gaziantep, at least 80 people were killed, while 70 died in Kahramanmaras.
In Malatya province, north-east of Gaziantep, at least 47 people were killed, while Sanliurfa, to the east, there were 18 deaths.
Other deaths were reported in various places including Diyarbakir and Osmaniye.
In a statement, the Syrian Health Ministry said that of the overall fatalities, 239 were reported from the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus.
The White Helmets rescue group, which operates in rebel-controlled areas of north-western Syria, said on Twitter that at least 147 people had died there.
Rescue operations are currently underway amid massive damages in the affected areas.
The Syrian Ministry of Defence has put all its units on high alert to help the people directly affected by the earthquake and rescue those still stuck under the rubble.
In the wake if the quake, the Transport Ministry suspended trains on all routes as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held an emergency meeting with his cabinet to discuss the repercussions of the earthquake.
The devastating temblor came as the region was under a snowstorm expected to continue until Thursday.
As a result of the quake, explosion occurred on a gas pipeline in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay.
The state-owned energy company BOTAS has suspended natural gas flow to southern Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces.
Monday’s earthquake is believed to be the strongest in Turkey since the magnitude 7.9 temblor that hit eastern Erzincan province in 1939, which killed 33,000 people.