ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 14 people and collapsing buildings near the epicentre of the tremor, which was felt in several neighbouring countries.
People stand outside a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig province, Turkey, January 24, 2020. Demiroren News Agency (DHA) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. TURKEY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN TURKEY.
The magnitude 6.8 quake hit Elazig province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital, Ankara, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks.
Eight people were killed in Elazig and six more in the neighbouring province of Malatya, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said. Regional governors said hundreds of people were injured.
State broadcaster TRT showed footage of police and emergency workers searching a partly collapsed building in Elazig. Windows were smashed and balconies had crashed to the ground.
At another collapsed building, teams worked with their hands to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described the earthquake as a “Level 3” incident according to the country’s emergency response plan. This means it requires assistance at the national level but is one stage short of needing international help.
The quake struck in a remote, relatively sparsely populated area and it could take some time for authorities to establish the full extent of damage.
AFAD officials warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the danger of further aftershocks. It said beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, where the overnight temperature was below 0 degrees Celsius.
State media in Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in those countries. Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.
Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of Izmit, 90 km (55 miles) southeast of Istanbul. About 500,000 people were made homeless.
In 2011 an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Ercis, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people.
Additional reporting by Dominic Evans, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Omer Berberoglu, Mert Ozkan in Turkey and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones and Matthew Lewis