Bad weather is hampering rescue efforts after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake and its powerful aftershocks struck southern Turkey and northwest Syria, killing thousands of people and injuring many more.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake struck at 4:17am (01:17 GMT) on Monday at a depth of about 17.9km (11 miles), leading to the collapse and destruction of buildings across the region. It was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon.
In addition to the devastation from the earthquake, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said authorities were also struggling with “extremely severe weather conditions”.
“We are trying to reach the region as quickly as possible,” Oktay told the media.
Alaa Nafi, from Idlib city in Syria, described the earthquake as “extremely horrific and terrifying”.
“Waking up in the middle of the night to the entire building shaking was the worst feeling ever and made it very hard to escape,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Seeing the people with children out on the streets crying in cold weather was heartbreaking, but we all congregated in one area away from all the buildings,” Nafi said.
Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed al-Khatib, who was in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, said many people were “standing outside in the cold” since the earthquake until some of the mosques opened their doors allowing people to take shelter from the freezing conditions.
He however said many people did not feel safe in buildings amid strong aftershocks. “You can see whole streets filled with cars and people sitting inside them,” he said.
“It’s like a nightmare and we wish that we can get out of it,” he added. “It is indescribable.”
Authorities said the death toll was likely to rise, while experts warned that aftershocks could continue for days or weeks.