The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey has climbed to 21 – with more than 1,000 people injured, emergency officials said.
Rescue workers were continuing to search for some 30 people buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Elazig province and neighbouring Malatya, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
He warned that the death toll could rise.
Emergency workers and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in the affected areas.
Mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories were opened for hundreds who left their homes after the quake.
“The earthquake was very severe, we desperately ran out (of our home),” Emre Gocer told the state-run Anadolu news agency as he sheltered with his family at a sports hall in the town of Sivrice in Elazig.
“We don’t have a safe place to stay right now.”
The quake hit on Friday at 8.55pm local time at a depth of 6.7 kilometres near Sivrice, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said.
Various earthquake monitoring centres gave magnitudes ranging from 6.5 to 6.8.
AFAD said it was followed by 228 aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.
At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed, said Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum. Hundreds of other structures were damaged and made unsafe.
AFAD said in a statement that 17 people were killed in Elazig and four in Malatya. Some 1,030 people were hurt.
Television footage showed emergency workers removing two people from the wreckage of a collapsed building in the town of Gezin.
Another person was saved in the city of Elazig, the provincial capital, and two more from a house in Doganyol, Malatya.
AFAD said 28 rescue teams were working around the clock. More than 1,300 personnel from 39 of Turkey’s 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site.
A delegation from the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) delegation went to Elazığ soon after the earthquake. Meanwhile, Professor Dr. Naci Görür criticised the government for ignoring warnings:
I gave conferences about Elazig’s seismicity, made warnings, and prepare Elazığ and its villages for an earthquake. But unfortunately, not much has been done in terms of prevention
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