Dozens of ambulances and emergency workers at the scene/Photo: AP

By Andah John with agency report

Police in Turkey are hunting for a gunman who opened fire at a popular nightclub early on Sunday, killing at least 39 people.

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The incident was reported to have happened at Reina nightclub, where hundreds of revellers marked the new year.

And officials say no fewer than 15 foreigners were killed. They include citizens from Israel, Belgium, Lebanon, Jordan, France, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

The attacker was reported to have left his gun before “taking advantage of the chaos” and fleeing the scene, Turkey’s PM said.

But Binali Yildirim also confirmed the gunman was not dressed as Santa Claus, contradicting earlier reports.

A BBC report says the attacker shot dead a policeman and a security guard at the entrance before heading into the club, which is popular with celebrities and foreigners.

Eyewitnesses have described seeing dozens of bodies lying on the floor. Some revellers reportedly threw themselves into the Bosphorus to escape the carnage.

“Gunshots rang out. When those sounds were heard, many girls fainted,” professional footballer Sefa Boydas told AFP news agency.

He said people appeared to be crushed as they ran away. “They say 35 to 40 died but it’s probably more because when I was walking, people were walking on top of people.”