A 7.8-magnitude earthquake has shaken Turkey and Syria, killing at least 31 people according to authorities.
The quake was centred about 20 miles from Gaziantep at a depth of 6 miles and there were five powerful aftershocks, according to reports.
At least 18 people have been reported dead in Turkey with a further 13 fatalities in Syria.
Several buildings have been destroyed as people gathered outside on snowy streets, according to images on state broadcaster TRT.
Rescue workers and residents using flashlights were searching through piles of tangled metal and concrete rubble in one of the stricken cities.
People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.
The governor of Osmaniye province said at least 34 buildings had collapsed due to the quake while the governor of Malatya said 130 had fallen down in his province.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.
Image: A 7.8 magnitude quake has knocked down multiple buildings in southeast Turkey “We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.
There were at least 6 aftershocks and he urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
“Our priority is to bring out people trapped under ruined buildings and to transfer them to hospitals,” he said.
In Sanliurfa, at least 10 deaths have been confirmed, according to Gov. Salih Ayhan.
Several buildings tumbled down in the neighbouring provinces of Malatya, Diyarbakir and Malatya, HaberTurk television reported. There were no immediate reports on casualties.
A strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.
On the Syrian side of the border, the quake smashed opposition-held regions that are packed with several million displaced Syrians with a decrepit health care system after years of war.
At least 11 were killed in one town, Atmed, and many more were buried in the rubble, a doctor in the town, Muheeb Qaddour, told The Associated Press by telephone.
“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Qaddour said, referring to the rebel-held northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”
Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.
Image: A hotel in the city of Malatya, Anatolia, after the quake hit. Pic: @Yedinoktabir In the northwest of the country, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defence urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas.
In Beirut and Damascus, there were reports of buildings shaking and people gathering on streets in fear.
There have so far been no reports of fatalities or serious damage Egypt, Lebanon or Cyprus, where the quake was also felt.
Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.