JUST IN: 500 people dead in Turkey, Syria after massive quake

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Over 500 people were killed and nearly 3,000 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.

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Meanwhile, the Syrian Health Ministry said 237 casualties have been reported so far from the regions of Aleppo, Hama, Tartus and Latakia.

Turkey also registered the majority number of injured at 2,323, while Syria has reported 639.

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.

In a statement to the media, Turkish Interior Minister Suleymon Soylu said the 10 cities of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis were affected.

While in Malatya province, north-east of Gaziantep, at least 23 people were killed, in Sanliurfa, to the east, there were 17 deaths, the Minister said, adding that the rest of the fatalities were reported in Diyarbakir and Osmaniye.

On his part, Syria’s Deputy Minister of Health Ahmad Damiriyeh said that general emergency plans have been implemented to provide for the affected areas and that private hospitals have been ordered to receive all injured cases, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Ministry of Transport announced earlier the suspension of train traffic on all railways as a precautionary measure, pending inspection of the bridges and tracks of the railway network.

Authorities in the two neighbouring nations fear an increase in the death toll as many buildings have collapsed and rescue teams were deployed to search for survivors under huge piles of rubble.

The initial quake was followed by another one measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale at 4.26 a.m., Xinhua news agency quoted Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), as saying.

At least 50 successive earthquakes were recorded with a maximum magnitude of 6.6, said AFAD.

(IANS)