Currently there is no information whether there are nationals of Tajikistan among the victims of a powerful earthquake that Turkiye early Monday morning, an official source within the Tajik Embassy in Ankara, told Asia-Plus Monday afternoon.    

“We are currently looking into whether there are Tajiks among the victims of the earthquake,” the source said. 

Media reports say a powerful earthquake struck the south-eastern part of Turkiye, near the Syrian border, at 4:17 am local time (1:17 GMT), killing more than 500 people as they slept.  Nearly 3,000 others were injured.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at a depth of 17.9 kilometers near the city of Gaziantep.

According to the BBC, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said the death toll in Turkiye had now risen to 284 people.

In Syria, more than 230 people were killed, state media was cited as saying.  The Syrian health ministry reportedly said people had died in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus.

There are fears the number of deaths will rise sharply in the coming hours.

Many buildings have collapsed and rescue teams have been deployed to search for survivors under huge piles of rubble.

CNN says Monday’s quake is believed to be the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when an earthquake of the same magnitude killed 30,000 people, according to the USGS.  Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world.  Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years – but Monday’s is the most powerful.