A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 5000 people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.
On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy winter night, as buildings were flattened and strong aftershocks continued.
Rescue workers and residents in multiple cities searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and giant piles of concrete. A hospital in Turkey collapsed and patients, including newborns, were evacuated from a handful of facilities in Syria.
In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. “I don't have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus.
Farther east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once an apartment building. The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of Gaziantep, a Turkish provincial capital.
It struck a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the swath affected is divided between government-held territory and the country's last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces.
Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.