More than 800 dead in Syria after Turkey earthquake
At least 810 people were killed in Syria on Monday as buildings collapsed after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck neighbouring Turkey, state media and rescuers said.
AFP correspondents in northern Syria said terrified residents ran out of their homes after the earthquake hit before dawn near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Syrian border.
The quake killed at least 430 people and left at least another 1,315 injured in government-controlled parts of Syria, including the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Tartus, the health ministry said.
In rebel-held parts of the northwest of the country, at least 380 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured, The White Helmets rescue group said.
The toll may increase as "hundreds of families are still trapped", the rescue group, which operates in rebel-controlled areas of the war-torn country, said on Twitter.
"Rescue efforts in northwest Syria are facing immense difficulties" because heavy equipment is required, they said.
The group said more than 133 buildings had completely collapsed, while 272 had been partially levelled, and thousands of others had been damaged.
Rescuers rushed to search for survivors beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings, under the pouring winter rain.
In Aleppo alone, 156 people died and 507 were injured when 46 buildings collapsed in the province, the official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official.
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo -- Syria's pre-war commercial hub -- often collapsed due to poor infrastructure.
Many of the buildings there are dilapidated after more than a decade of war and little oversight to ensure the safety of new construction projects, some of which have been built illegally.
In the city of Hama, an eight-storey building collapsed after the quake at dawn, with rescuers and civil defence forces still searching for survivors under the rubble, SANA said.
Alaa Shaker of the Syrian Red Crescent told AFP that around 125 people lived in the building.
The earthquake was felt from Latakia on the coast in the west all the way to the capital Damascus hundreds of kilometres (miles) further south, SANA said.
"This earthquake is the strongest since the National Earthquake Centre was founded in 1995," Raed Ahmed, who heads the centre, told SANA.
He said that 25 aftershocks had struck the country following the earthquake on Monday.
Schools will be closed across Syria until the end of the week, the education ministry said, with the transport ministry reporting that the Banyas oil refinery had stopped working because it was damaged in the quake.
Near the border town of Azaz, an AFP correspondent saw rescuers pull survivors as well as five bodies from the rubble of a three-storey building that had collapsed.
Dozens of rescuers and residents had toiled in the darkness, using flashlights to look for survivors in the debris.
The earthquake hit near Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey at 04:17 am (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometres (11 miles), the US Geological Survey said.
Tremors were also felt in Lebanon and Cyprus, AFP correspondents said.