Manhunt underway for New Year party massacre gunman in Turkey

At least 39 people were killed in the attack

Turkey, attack, nightclub,

Image: Turkish police officers block the road leading to the scene of an attack in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. An assailant, believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume and armed with a long-barrelled weapon, opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul's Ortakoy district during New Year's celebrations. AP Photo/Halit Onur Sandal/Press Association Images

A manhunt is under way for a gunman believed to have been dressed as Santa who killed at least 39 people in a New Year nightclub attack in Istanbul.

Another 69 people were wounded in the armed rampage, which Istanbul's governor described as a "terrorist attack".

At least 16 foreign nationals were among the dead at the club which was popular with tourists, the Turkish interior ministry said.

The gunman killed a policeman and civilian outside the Reina nightclub before opening fire at random inside the building, packed with 600 people celebrating the New Year.

"The search for the terrorist continues... I hope (the assailant) will be captured quickly, God willing," said interior minister Suleyman Soylu. "This was a massacre, a truly inhuman savagery."

One reveller told how she had to lift dead bodies off her to escape the building after the attack at 1.45am local time on Sunday.

Sinem Uyanik said she saw several bodies inside the club and her husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded.

"Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me," she said. "I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has updated their travel advice for Turkey, stating that Irish citizens should "avoid the area, follow local security advice, and exercise extreme caution."

The DFAT also urged those in Istanbul to let family and friends know if they are ok, or if they need assistance to contact the Department on (003531) 408 2000 or 0090 312 459 1000.

The White House condemned the "horrific" attack, stating: "That such an atrocity could be perpetrated upon innocent revellers, ay of whom were celebrating New YEar's Eve, underscores the savagery of the attackers."

"Terrorists will not prevail in destabilising democracy"

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has condemned the incident, calling it a "heinous violent attack".

"Terrorists will not prevail in destabilising democracy as long as we continue to stand together and I reiterate that Ireland, along with other European Union Member States, stands in solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism," he said in a statement.
 
"Ireland's Embassy in Ankara is in ongoing close contact with local Turkish authorities and other partners. We have not received any report of any Irish casualties. 
 
"I advise any Irish citizens in Istanbul to remain very vigilant and to exercise extreme caution, to follow the advice of local authorities especially the police, and to avoid crowded areas and those frequented by foreigners."