Ankara: A powerful earthquake has killed at least 21 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Saturday.
The Turkish government’s disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said in a series of tweets early on Saturday that five people were pulled alive from the rubble in the eastern province of Elazig.
State news agency Anadolu said among those found alive was a pregnant woman who was rescued 12 hours after the quake hit.
At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake on Friday night, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in Elazig.
“It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside,” 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear.
“We stand by our people,” Erdogan said on Twitter.
AFAD said the quake hit Sivrice at around 8.55 pm (1755 GMT). Turkey lies on major faultlines and is prone to frequent earthquakes.Turkish television showed images of people rushing outside in panic, as well as a fire on the roof of a building.
Rescue teams were searching for survivors trapped in a five-storey collapsed building in a village some 30 kilometres from Elazig, according to AFP journalists at the scene. One person was pulled alive from the rubble.
Sports centres, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.
Sivrice — a town with a population of about 4,000 — is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake — one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river.
The lake is home to a “Sunken City”, with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.
The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighbouring cities had mobilised rescue teams for the quake area.
“Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary,” said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.
“It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds,” added Ferda, 39. “I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside.”
The US Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.
“My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.
In Athens, the Greek premier’s office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.