At least 245 people were killed in Syria on Monday as buildings collapsed after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that had its epicentre in neighbouring Turkey, state media and a medical source said.
More than 230 people were killed and over 600 injured in government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria, the health ministry said.
"Six hundred and thirty-nine people were injured and 237 were killed in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus," the Syrian health ministry said in a statement.
AFP correspondents in northern Syria said terrified residents ran out of their homes after the earthquake struck before dawn near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Syrian border.
Rescuers rushed to search for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings in the pouring winter rain.
In Aleppo alone, 24 people had died and 100 were injured when 20 buildings collapsed in the province, the official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official in the province.
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo, Syria's pre-war commercial hub, often collapsed due to the dilapidated infrastructure after more than a decade of war as well as little oversight to ensure safety of new construction projects.
SANA said the earthquake was felt from the western coast of Latakia to Damascus.
"This earthquake is the strongest since the National Earthquake Centre was founded in 1995," Raed Ahmed, who heads the centre, told SANA.
Near the border town of Azaz, an AFP correspondent saw rescuers pull out survivors as well as five bodies out of the rubble of a three-storey building that crumbled.