Powerful earthquake in Turkey and Syria kills 360 people
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At least 360 people have died after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria in the early hours of Monday morning.
The death toll is expected to rise, as hundreds of people were also injured in the quake, which toppled buildings, leaving rescue workers to sift through piles of rubble in urban areas in order to find survivors or bodies.
There were also strong aftershocks following the initial quake, which drove many from their homes and out into the cold after a snowy night.
In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident claimed that three buildings were brought down by the force of the earthquake, telling AP that he heard one trapped survivor shouting out ‘I don’t have the strength anymore’ as rescuers tried to get through to him.
Across the border in Syria, the quake affected an area held by opposition forces that are also temporarily home to around four million people who have been left displaced by the ongoing civil war in the country.
Many of those people are living in sub-standard accommodation and with very limited health care.
“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” a doctor in the town of Atmeh, held by the rebels, also told AP.
Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets - a volunteer group dedicated to search and rescue as well as evacuation and medical care for those affected by the war - said that many entire neighbourhoods had been collapsed by the quake.
On Twitter, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote that ‘search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched’ to areas affected.
He added: “We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage.”
According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency, at least 76 people in the country have been killed, with 440 others injured.
Syria state media reported that 237 people were killed and more than 630 injured, with at least 47 people killed in areas held by the rebels against the government.
There has also been widespread disruption on roads surrounding the area affected by the earthquake, with traffic jams caused by those fleeing the destruction making it difficult for emergency teams to get through to those areas worst affected.
Authorities have urged people to stay off the roads, with mosques in the area opened up to offer shelter to those who cannot return to their homes but who need to get out of the cold.
In the opposition-held areas of Syria, the Syrian Civil Defense described the situation as 'disastrous', stating that many were still trapped beneath the rubble of buildings felled in the quake.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake was centred about 33 kilometers from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, in the region of Anatolia.
It was felt as far away as the Egyptian capital Cairo, with many residents in the Lebanese capital Beirut brought out of their beds due to buildings shaking.
Turkey sits on several fault lines and is frequently struck by earthquakes.
One such quake in 1999 killed 18,000 people.
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