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Major earthquake strikes Turkey, Syria; hundreds dead, many trapped

DIYARBAKIR/ANKARA: A major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck central Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday, killing more than 1,300 people and injuring hundreds as buildings collapsed across the region, triggering searches for survivors in the rubble.

The magnitude 7.8 quake, which hit in the early darkness of a winter morning, was the worst to hit Turkey this century. It was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon.

“We were shaken like a cradle. There were nine of us at home. Two sons of mine are still in the rubble, I’m waiting for them,” said one woman, her arm broken and wounds on her face as she spoke in an ambulance near the wreckage of the seven-storey block where she lived in Diyarbakir.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said 912 people were killed, 5,383 injured, and 2,818 buildings had collapsed.

Erdogan said he could not predict how much the death toll would rise as search and rescue efforts continued.

He said 45 countries had offered to help with the search and rescue efforts.

“I have never felt anything like it in the 40 years I’ve lived,” said Erdem, a resident of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the quake’s epicentre, who declined to give his surname.

“We were shaken at least three times very strongly.”

Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay said 284 people had been killed and 2,323 people were injured, as authorities scrambled rescue teams and supply aircraft to the affected area, while declaring a “level 4 alarm” that calls for international assistance.

In Syria, already wrecked by more than 11 years of civil war, the health ministry said more than 326 people had been killed and 1,042 injured. In the Syrian rebel-held northwest, rescuers said 147 people had died.

In the Syrian rebel-held northwest, a rescue service said dozens had been killed.

Turkish state broadcaster RTR showed rescue workers in Osmaniye province using a blanket to carry an injured man out of a collapsed four-storey building and putting him in an ambulance. He was the fifth to be pulled from the rubble, it said.

Footage on broadcaster CNNTurk showed the historic Gaziantep Castle was severely damaged.

President Erdogan spoke by telephone with the governors of eight affected provinces to gather information on the situation and rescue efforts, his office said in a statement.

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