Updated | Death toll hits 1,200 after magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits Turkey and Syria

Millions of people in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel jolted from their beds early Monday after a deadly earthquake hit the region • Italy retracts tsunami alert issued soon after earthquake

Over 1,000 people in Turkey and Syria were killed after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey's southern regions early on Monday morning with the death toll expected to continue rising.

So far, more than 912 people have been reported dead in Turkey and more than 380 in Syria with disturbing images showing widespread destruction as buildings collapsed.

Millions of people in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel were jolted from their beds after the deadly earthquake hit the region, followed by several magnitude 6 aftershocks.

The epicentre of the earthquake was near the city of Gaziantep in south central Turkey.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit at 4:17am, according to the United States Geological Survey. It was followed by aftershocks, one as strong as magnitude 6.7. 

Videos shared on social media from the area and across the border in Syria showed destroyed buildings and rescue crews searching through piles of rubble for survivors.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said that search and rescue teams had been dispatched to the areas affected by the earthquake. The country also sought international assistance for the rescue efforts. “We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible,” Erdogan said on Twitter.

The Italian tsunami alert centre CAT issued an alert for possible tsunami waves arriving on the Italian coast following the earthquake. However, the alert was later withdrawn.

The Turkish provinces of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras that surround the earthquake’s epicentre are not far from the Syrian border and host hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people.

Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, the most in the world from that conflict, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The agency runs one of its largest operations from the city of Gaziantep.

Malta's Foreign Minister Ian Borg expressed solidarity with the government and people of Turkey and expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

Speaker Anġlu Farrugia also extended his solidarity in a communication with his Turkish counterpart.

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