By Umit Ozdal
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – A strong earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck southern Turkey early on Monday and was felt in Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria, collapsing buildings and sending residents into the snowy streets, witnesses and broadcasters said.
The German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) said the quake struck at a depth of 10 km (6 miles) near the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, while the EMSC monitoring service said the chance of a tsunami risk was being evaluated.
The tremor lasted about a minute and shattered windows, according to a Reuters witness in Diyarbakir, 350 km (218 miles)to the east.
Broadcasters TRT and Haberturk showed images of people gathered around wrecked building in Kahramanmaras, seeking survivors.
The governor of Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa province, Salih Ayhan, said on Twitter, “we have destroyed buildings” and urged people to move to safe locations.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) put the magnitude of the quake at 7.4 near Kahramanmaras and the larger city of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.
Syrian state media said a large number of buildings collapsed in the province of Aleppo, while a source in the Hama civil service said several buildings collapsed there.
“Paintings fell off the walls in the house,” said Samer, a resident of Damascus, the Syrian capital. “I woke up terrified. Now we’re all dressed and standing at the door.”
People in Damascus, as well as in the Lebanese cities of Beirut and Tripoli ran into the street on foot and took to their cars to get away from their buildings in case of collapses, witnesses said.
The area is regularly hit by strong earthquakes.
The head of the Turkish Red Cross said it was mobilising resources for the region as it had received information of serious damage and collapsed buildings, and urged people to evacuate damaged homes.