A 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked a sparsely populated part of eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 18 people, injuring more than 500 and leaving some 30 trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings, Turkish officials said.
Rescue teams from neighbouring provinces were dispatched to the affected areas, working in the dark with floodlights in the freezing cold, and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said troops were on standby to help.
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Hundreds of residents were left homeless or with damaged homes.
TV footage showed rescuers pull out one injured person from the rubble of a collapsed building in the district of Gezin, in the eastern Elazig province.
Around 30 were believed to be trapped inside collapsed structures in Elazig province, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who travelled to the afflicted area together with Soylu, said 13 people were killed in Elazig, including two people who suffered heart attacks, and five others died in Malatya.
A total of 553 people were hurt, including 11 who were in serious condition.
Residents walk on a street as Turkish officials and police arrive at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey on Friday evening [Ilyas Akengin/Demiroren News Agency via AFP]
Some 30 buildings had collapsed from the quake in the two provinces, according to Murat Kurum, the environment minister.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that all measures were being taken to “ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many provinces is overcome with the least amount of loss.”
The quake struck at 8:55pm local time (17:55 GMT), at a depth of 6.7km (4.1 miles) near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said. It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.
Elazig is some 750km (465 miles) east of the capital, Ankara.
People in Elazig whose homes were damaged or were too afraid to go indoors were being moved to student dormitories or sports centre amid freezing conditions.
Elazig Governor Cetin Oktay Kaldirim told NTV television that a fire broke out in a building in Sivrice, near the epicentre, but was quickly brought under control.
Interior Minister Soylu was at a meeting on earthquake preparedness when the quake struck.
The Kandilli seismology centre in Istanbul said the quake measured 6.5, while the US Geological Survey gave the preliminary magnitude as 6.7, and said the earthquake affected not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia and Armenia.
Different earthquake monitoring centres frequently give differing estimates.
NTV said the earthquake was felt in several Turkish provinces and sent people running outdoors in panic.
Turkey sits on top of two major fault-lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.
A magnitude-6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.
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