Powerful earthquake hits Turkey, leaving at least 29 dead

More than 1,200 reported injured as rescue efforts continue in eastern Elazig province

The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey has climbed to 29 as rescue crews continue the search for people trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu said earlier on Saturday that 18 people were killed in Elazig province, where Friday night's quake was centred, and four in neighbouring Malatya.

The national disaster agency later updated the total with seven more casualties. Another 1,243 people were injured, and 34 of them are in intensive care but not in critical condition.

The tremor was strong enough to be felt in several neighbouring countries.


The magnitude 6.8 quake shook Elazig province, about 550km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by more than 270 aftershocks, 12 of which had magnitudes over 4.

Footage early on Saturday showed emergency workers rescuing three people in Elazig after 12 hours under the rubble. Another woman in Elazig was rescued after 13 hours, while authorities listened for voices, with the government saying 30 more people were still trapped.

State broadcaster TRT showed footage of dozens of workers in the dawn light using shovels to dig out a partly collapsed building in Elazig. Windows were smashed and balconies from at least four storeys had crashed to the ground.

Worked through night

Teams worked through the night with their hands, drills and mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins in the province where the overnight temperature dipped to -8 degrees.

“Our houses collapsed . . . we cannot go inside them,” said a 32-year-old man from the town of Sivrice, epicentre of the quake which struck shortly before 9pm (6pm Irish time).

“In our village some people lost their lives. I hope God will help us,” said the man, who gave only his first name, Sinasi. “Our animals died. Our families gathered around the fire to spend the night, covered with blankets,” Sinasi said as he and a relative tried to warm themselves by a small fire.

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.

Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu described it as a “Level 3” incident according to the country’s emergency response plan, meaning it called for a national response but did not require international help.

He said Turkey, which straddles seismic faultlines and is prone to earthquakes, had learned lessons from previous disasters which helped it address Friday’s incident. Drones were deployed in search operations and to communicate between provinces.

Additional flights

Emergency teams and rescue equipment were sent from other provinces to Elazig after the quake. Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines started additional flights to Elazig from Ankara and Istanbul to help transport rescuers.

"I wish God's mercy to our brothers who lost their lives in the earthquake, and urgent healing for those who were injured," president Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter. He said his interior, health, and environment and urbanisation ministers were in the region for inspections.

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 Limit, 90km (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 100km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people. – Reuters