Over 500 people have lost their lives after a huge earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck central Turkey and north-west Syria early on Monday morning.

Hundreds of people were trapped after buildings collapsed in the region. Rescue workers were looking for survivors trapped under tangles of metal and chunks of concrete in cities and towns as authorities scrambled rescue teams and supply aircraft to the affected area.

Turkey’s vice-president, Fuat Oktay, said 284 people had been killed and 2,323 people were injured. A health official from Syria said more than 237 people had been killed and about 600 injured.

Images shared by Turkish outlets showed how the quake caused the collapse of Gaziantep’s historic castle, an ancient and imposing stone structure atop a hill used as an observation point during Roman times.

1,718 buildings have collapsed and search and rescue operations are ongoing in several major cities.

The healthcare system in Syria is overwhelmed by the number of people in need of medical attention, especially as some hospitals have been damaged by the quake.

The authorities declared level 4 alarm” that calls for international assistance.

President Joe Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected. 

Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has offered his condolences and help from his country.

The British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has also said that his country stands by ready to help.

Our thoughts are with the people of Turkey and Syria.