Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that at least 912 people were killed, and more than 5,000 others were injured, in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the center of the country.
This is the biggest disaster the country has seen since 1939, Erdogan said, adding that 2,818 buildings collapsed as a result.
It was reported that a second earthquake struck the southeast of the country in the same area as the first quake.
In Syria, state media said the quake killed at least 326 people across the border in government-held areas of war-torn Syria.
The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) said that at least 1,042 people were injured in the quake, which occurred near the city of Gaziantep in southwestern Turkey, about 40 km from the Syrian border.
The US Geological Survey said that the earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.8, occurred at 04:17 local time at a depth of 17.9 kilometers near the city of Gaziantep. The Syrian Ministry of Health said that the dead and wounded were distributed among the governorates of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartous.
There are fears that the death toll will rise dramatically in the coming hours.
Many buildings collapsed and rescue teams were deployed to search for survivors under huge piles of rubble.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu said that 10 cities were affected, namely Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Shanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis.
A BBC correspondent for the Turkish service in Diyarbakir reported the collapse of a commercial center in the city.
The earthquake was also felt in Lebanon and Cyprus.
“I was writing something and suddenly the whole building started shaking, I really didn’t know what happened,” Mohammed Al-Shamaa, a student in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, told the BBC.
He added, “I was right next to the window, and I was afraid that it would shatter. The tremor lasted for four to five minutes, and it was very terrifying. It was amazing.”
Rushdi Abu Al-Wof, the BBC’s Gaza director, said the house he was staying in shook for about 45 seconds.
Turkish seismologists estimated the magnitude of the earthquake to be 7.4. They said another tremor hit the area a few minutes later.
Turkey is located in one of the most seismically active regions in the world.
In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed after a powerful earthquake struck the northwest of the country.
The aftershocks of the earthquake reached other countries in the region, and were felt by residents in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.
And the White House quoted US President Joe Biden as saying that he quickly directed assistance to the afflicted in Turkey and Syria.
Turkish media reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan requested an urgent briefing from officials of the affected areas in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş.
The European Mediterranean Seismological Center said it was assessing the possibility of a tsunami.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday morning, Egypt expressed its condolences and solidarity with both Turkey and Syria.
The statement stated that Egypt extends its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the Turkish and Syrian peoples, and affirms its readiness to provide assistance.
And the French news agency, quoting the American Center for Seismology, said that the magnitude of the earthquake that struck southern Turkey amounted to 7.9 degrees.
And the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported that a large fire broke out in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, shortly after the earthquake.
International offers of aid
International offers to help Turkey and Syria in rescue efforts poured in Monday after the quake struck.
The European Union said it would send rescue teams to Turkey after the stricken country requested EU help.
“Teams from the Netherlands and Romania are already on their way,” EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janiz Lenarcic wrote on Twitter, adding that the EU’s civil protection mechanism had done so.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France was ready to provide emergency aid to Turkey and Syria. “Our thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The UK stands ready to help in any way we can,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote, saying his thoughts were with the people of Turkey and Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent two messages to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conveying Russia’s condolences and offering assistance.
“We hope for a speedy recovery for all the wounded and are ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the impact of this natural disaster,” Putin told Assad.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a tweet that Spain would send drones and a unit from its Military Emergency Unit, a branch of the armed forces responsible for providing disaster relief, to Turkey.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran is ready to provide “immediate relief aid to these two friendly countries,” expressing condolences over the “tragic accident.”