Ankara: At least 50 people were killed on Monday after a powerful earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck south-eastern Turkey near the Syrian border, Interior Minister Suleymon Soylu has confirmed, adding that the tremor was also felt in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.
Addressing reporters, the Minister said the quake affected the 10 Turkish cities of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis, reports the BBC.
Of the victims, 23 were reported in Malatya province, while Sanliurfa to the east registered 17 fatalities.
There were casualties in Diyarbakir and Osmaniye as well but the official numbers were not known immediately.
“We’ve set up a fourth-level alert. This is an alarm that includes international assistance,” Soylu said.
There are fears the death toll will rise sharply in the coming hours as many buildings have collapsed and rescue teams have been deployed to search for survivors under huge piles of rubble.
Meanwhile Syrian state media also reported 42 fatalities in the country, but an official confirmation was awaited.
Turkish seismologists said that a second 6.4 magnitude tremor hit the region just minutes later.
Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed after a powerful tremor rocked the north-west of the country.
In a more recent quake, 117 people died when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Izmir on October 30, 2020.